FIFTEEN– THE DOUBLE EVENT
Jack the Ripper was a monster, and his female victims were downtrodden and abused for most of their lives. Somehow and at some point Jack the Ripper and his brutal crimes became a spectacle to be savoured. The reasons why are complicated. In 1888 the presence and threat from the assassin would have inspired gallows humour. Our macabre nature, gossip and invention, addictive inexplicable mystery and God knows what else have also made the mix fertile. In our imaginations the victims can be reduced to startled female cries, disembodied women hidden in an inauthentic white fog. If the Jack the Ripper story is now nothing more than spectacle, the night of the double event is the highlight of the show. The double event had repellent but fabulous elements. There were two victims, two killings within an hour, a glamorous Swedish woman with a dubious past, interesting locations, radical politics, whodunit type clues, dodgy actions by the police, behaviour by the Ripper that was even more mysterious than the killings, and as always the peculiar hand of fate.
The two murders occurred in the early hours of the 30th of September. Liz Stride was the attractive Swede and she was the first victim. Catherine Eddowes was murdered three quarters of an hour later. Both women were hard cases that liked to drink but only Stride had a history of prostitution. The two murders were different. Liz Stride had her throat cut, and Catherine Eddowes was mutilated. Opinion is divided as to whether the Ripper committed both crimes. Those who think the Ripper killed the two women believe he was interrupted in his assault on Stride, which is why only her throat was cut. In this scenario the frustrated Ripper needed another woman to vent his desire. He found a second victim less than an hour later. Others think that Stride was killed not by the Ripper but by a local criminal, probably a pimp that Stride had crossed. This theory depends on dubious coincidence.
The two murders may have occurred in the two hours after midnight but there were four witnesses. Israel Schwarz was standing on the other side of Berner Street and claimed that he saw a man throw Liz Stride to the ground. Matthew Packer said that around midnight he had sold grapes to Stride and a man. The couple were seen at other locations. The testimonies from the different witnesses were not consistent but somewhere amongst the four of them someone did see the Ripper. Dutfield’s Yard was located at 40 Berner Street, which was also the address of the International Workingmens’ Educational Association. At the Labour Party Conference this week Jeremy Corbyn referred in his leadership speech to how the ancestors of Jewish members had helped form the Labour Party. Some of those ancestors would have attended meetings at the International Workingmens’ Educational Association, and some Labour Party members today may remember older relatives who were at the meeting on the night of the double event. The motion being debated by the Association that night was ‘Why Jews should become Socialists?’ The meeting was already over when Liz Stride was being murdered but a dozen people had remained to drink, chat and sing the occasional song. No one heard any noise from the yard.
Also at 40 Berner Street and located behind the meeting hall was the editorial and printing office of the radical newspaper Arbeter Freint. In English the title means Workers’ Friend. The weekly paper had an international reputation and influence amongst radicals. 40 Berner Street was a birthplace to left wing ideas. Catherine Eddowes was murdered in Mitre Square. Mitre Tavern was a well-known meeting place for local conservative thinking Freemasons. The contrast between the two locations is obvious and beyond invention. Mitre Square was patrolled every fifteen minutes by P C Watkins. This was verified by a watchman who worked in a warehouse in Mitre Square. In no more than fifteen minutes and with hardly any light the Ripper killed and mutilated Catherine Eddowes and removed her kidney and womb.
At 118-119 Goulston Street and at 2.55 pm P C Long found two clues in the doorway to Wentworth Model Dwellings. An hour earlier Jack the Ripper had cut a piece of cloth from the apron worn by Catherine Eddowes. The matching piece of blood stained cloth was found by P C Alfred Long on the common stairway into the Dwellings. A large majority of the residents in the Dwellings were Jewish. P C Long was adamant that the cloth had not been there when he visited the doorway at 2.20 am. The theory is that Jack wrapped the kidney inside the blood stained cloth. Even by the exotic standards of London this is an odd takeaway. What happened to the kidney after the cloth was thrown away is not known. There is also the small matter of the missing womb. The body of Catherine Eddowes was discovered at 1.45 am. No explanation has been given for why the Ripper remained in the locality for possibly an hour or how he avoided the police patrols that occurred every fifteen minutes. Goulston Street is a five minute walk from Mitre Square.
P C Long was not as emphatic about the second clue, the famous chalk writing on the wall inside the doorway but neither did P C Long say that he had noticed the writing at 2.20 am. The writing said ‘The Juwes will not be blamed for nothing’. The writing on the wall in Goulston Street was washed away by the Metropolitan Police. The decision was authorised by Sir Charles Warren the head of the Metropolitan Police. Apart from the bodies of the victims the only forensic clues available to the police were those that had been discovered in the doorway in Goulston Street. Yet Warren had the confidence to destroy one of the two available clues. The decision must have inspired lengthy debate because the chalk remained on the wall until 5.30 am. The neighbouring City Police wanted the writing to remain and be examined as evidence. By 5.30 am daylight had arrived and the prevarication and debate had to cease. The official explanation is that Sir Charles Warren believed that the writing would encourage the prejudice that existed against the Jewish population and create unrest in London.
The strange spelling of the word ‘Juwes’ has inspired doubts about ‘Juwes’ even being a reference to the Jewish population. Some have claimed that ‘Juwes’ refers to the three assassins who killed the architect of King Solomon’s Temple and who feature in Masonic legend. Sir Charles Warren was an eminent British Freemason and had led excavations below King Solomon’s Temple. Removing evidence is strange behaviour for a policeman but Sir Charles Warren was an odd policeman. Before becoming head of the Metropolitan Police his professional experience was limited to the military. His criteria for managing the Police would have been political. His boss was Henry Matthews the Home Secretary. Such men were confined to their offices in Central London. The explanations for why Sir Charles Warren visited Whitechapel that night are not convincing. Those who like to avoid complex mystery have argued that the writing was graffiti. It is odd that the piece of apron would be left under random graffiti and where it was likely to be discovered. But it may have been no more than mischief on the part of the Ripper. A question avoided is what happened to the missing kidney and womb and why at 2.55 am the cloth was no longer required by Jack the Ripper. Perhaps Jack had spent the previous hour disposing of the kidney in ways best not imagined.
The fate of both victims on the 30th September 1888 had an element of caprice. Liz Stride came to England after receiving a modest inheritance. If she had stayed in Sweden, perhaps married someone other than John Thomas Stride and then avoided alcohol, she would not have been victim number four. Catherine Eddowes shared her life with John Kelly. Their return from hop picking in Kent was premature and before the season had ended. The day of her murder Eddowes told Kelly she was going to see her daughter. She did not. Whatever she did that day it involved drinking enough alcohol for Eddowes to be found incapable by a policeman. At 8.30 pm Eddowes was put into a cell but at 12.55 am she was released. Less than an hour later she had been murdered, mutilated and robbed of her kidney and womb. Perhaps the police needed the cell for someone else or perhaps they begrudged giving free board for the night to another Whitechapel drunk. At 12.55 am Eddowes may not have been as incapable as when she was arrested four hours earlier but resisting Jack the Ripper was beyond her. The photograph of a dead Liz Stride is almost tasteful by Ripper standards. It shows the face of a fine-featured and fully dressed woman who had good hair. Eddowes was not so fortunate. In her photograph she is naked, emaciated and mutilated. The mutilations of the fifth victim Mary Jane Kelly were more extreme but they rendered her unrecognisable. The naked and pathetic body of Catherine Eddowes has been preserved for posterity in unforgiving black and white photographs. Her misfortune continued beyond the grave.
Howard Jackson has had seven books published by Red Rattle Books including novels, short stories and collections of film criticism. If you are interested in original horror and crime fiction and want information about the books of Howard Jackson and the other great titles at Red Rattle Books, click here.