EIGHTEEN– THE MEDICS
Doctors are like the rest of us. They make decisions based on what they regard as important and ignore the rest. Without being definite about the number of women Jack the Ripper killed it is impossible to know just how many doctors were drawn into the saga of his crimes. A record has to begin and end somewhere, and if we start with Emma Smith and finish with Mary Jane Kelly there are seven victims. The consensus is that the Ripper killed no more than five and possibly four. A record of the medics that attended the seven plus a reference to a famous kidney should be adequate.
Emma Smith alleged she was attacked by three men but she may not have wanted to reveal that her injuries were caused by a potential customer, which is why she is mentioned in books about the Ripper. She died in hospital on April 5th after being assaulted on April 3rd. In London Hospital she was treated by the house surgeon Dr George Ernest Haslip. He was thirty-four years old when he encountered the wounded Emma Smith. Dr Haslip died in 1924. In the final years of his life he was Treasurer of the British Medical Association.
Martha Tabram was stabbed 39 times but there was no mutilation or disembowelment. Mere stabbing and suspicions about an unidentified soldier exclude her from the canonical five. Various factors affected the choice of doctor to attend the scene of a crime. Policeman on the beat would rush to the nearest available doctor in the vicinity, and senior policemen had the authority to summon the police surgeon. Dr Timothy Killeen had a surgery at nearby 68 Buck Lane. The body of Martha Tabram was discovered in George Yard Building. At 5.30 am Dr Killeen arrived and concluded Tabram had died two hours before. Dr Killen believed that the assailant was right handed and that all the wounds bar one could have been caused by a penknife. Dr Timothy Killeen followed the body of Tabram to the mortuary, performed the autopsy and appeared as a witness at the inquest. The Irish doctor returned to Ireland and spent his final years in County Clare.
Dr Rees Ralph Llewellyn had a surgery at 152 Whitechapel Road. At 4am on August 31st 1888 he was summoned to the body of Mary Ann Nichols. After a cursory examination he pronounced Nichols dead. Dr Llewellyn subsequently examined the corpse of Mary Jane Nichols at the Old Montague Street Workhouse Infirmary. Before the post mortem the body was stripped and washed down by three pauper assistants from the Workhouse. This happened despite orders from the police to not touch the body. Names are available for two of the pauper assistants. The two named assistants were Robert Mann and James Hatfield. In 2009 Barnsley author M J Trow claimed that Robert Mann was the Ripper. The opinion has few devotees. In his post mortem report Dr Llewellyn said the cuts had been caused by a long blade knife and that the killing might have been done by a right-handed person. Dr Llewellyn died in 1921. He was 70 years old.
When Annie Chapman was murdered, the local police constable was on fixed point duty and refused to move. A disgruntled witness informed Inspector Chandler who was working at H Division police station. Inspector Chandler went to the scene of the crime and sent for the Divisional Surgeon, Dr George Bagster Phillips, who pronounced the body dead. The body was again taken to the Old Montague Street mortuary. Two nurses, Mary Elizabeth Simmonds and Frances Wright, undressed the body of Annie Chapman. This time the assistants were obeying orders of the Clerk to the Parish Guardians and not the police. Dr George Bagster Phillips performed the autopsy. He was police surgeon to H Division from 1865. Dr Phillips attended four autopsies of Jack the Ripper victims and was summoned to three murder sites. According to his post mortem report, Dr Phillips thought Annie Chapman had fine teeth. He said that the knife used by the murderer was six to eight inches long. He also ascribed medical skill to the assailant.
P C Watkins must have lacked the clout of Inspector Chandler because he could only summon Dr Frederick Blackwell to the body of Liz Stride, the first victim in the famous double event of September 30th 1888. Dr Blackwell shared his practice at 100 Commercial Street with Dr Kay. Edward Johnson, an assistant at the practice, roused Dr Blackwell. The report from Dr Blackwell is important because it denied the existence of grape stalks in the hand of the victim Liz Stride. This contradicted the witness statement from Matthew Packer who alleged that he had sold grapes to Stride and a man before her death. Bruce Robinson in They All Love Jack has challenged the words of Dr Blackwell. Robinson quotes two other witnesses who claimed to have seen the grape stalks in the hand of Liz Stride. Dr Blackwell died in 1900 when he was forty-eight years old. In 1896 Dr Blackwell vaccinated a child who died. The inquest decided that the death was not caused by the vaccination.
The post-mortem for Liz Stride was completed by Dr George Bagster Phillips. He described the murder of Liz Stride as very different from that of Annie Chapman. Liz Stride was lying on the ground when the wound was inflicted. Other victims had their throats cut while they were standing. The solitary wound and the method of killing has persuaded some authors to doubt Liz Stride as a victim of Jack the Ripper. The alternative view is that there had been an argument between Stride and the Ripper, and during the argument, Stride was thrown to the ground; only one wound was inflicted because the Ripper was interrupted during the crime.
Not one but two doctors were summoned to Mitre Square where Catherine Eddowes was slain. P C Holland fetched Dr George William Sequiera, and Inspector Edward Calland from Bishopsgate police station sent a constable to bring the City Police surgeon, Dr Frederick Gordon Brown. Four doctors were present at the post mortem of Catherine Eddowes. These were Dr Sequiera, Dr Brown, Dr William Sedgewick Saunders, the City Public Analyst, and Dr George Bagster Phillips. Dr Brown wrote the post mortem report for Catherine Eddowes, and as additional witnesses the other three doctors attended the inquest of Catherine Eddowes. The evidence from the four doctors has caused confusion. Dr Saunders stated that he agreed with the belief of Dr Sequiera and Dr Brown that the murderer had no anatomical skill. Dr Brown, though, had insisted that the murderer had anatomical knowledge. Dr Saunders lived until 1901. He was 76 years old when he died and was the author of numerous papers. They may or may not have been controversial. His gift for having alternative opinions whilst being in agreement with others would have helped him avoid too much criticism. Dr Sequiera had a surgery at 34 Jewry Street. He died in 1924 when he was 74 years old. Dr Gordon Brown was blessed with the longest life. He lived until he was 84 years old.
Dr Bagster Phillips died in 1897 but before that he had to visit the home of victim Mary Jane Kelly in Millers Court. Dr Phillips was invited by Inspector Beck who was on duty at Commercial Road Station when Mary Jane Kelly was killed. Dr Gordon Brown, Dr Thomas Bond and Dr John Rees Gabe appeared at Millers Court later. The post mortem report, though, was completed by Dr Thomas Bond. In his report Dr Bond claimed that the murderer did not require anatomical knowledge. The opinion is not significant. The word ‘require’ is important. The little that was left of Mary Jane Kelly revealed a fiendish and unrestrained attack but little else. The heart, though, was removed. The presence of gynaecologist and paediatrician Dr John Rees Gabe is odd but we know he saw the body because he gave reports to the press. Dr Gabe subsequently became a divisional surgeon. At the risk of being flippant you have to start somewhere.
Dr Roderick McDonald who had a practice in the East End from 1868 attended the inquest but not to give medical evidence. He was the coroner. The inquest of Mary Jane Kelly was the only inquest of a Ripper victim that ended in a single day. Perhaps the presence of a coroner with medical qualifications meant that there was no need to repeat medical evidence. The jurors visited the mortuary and viewed the definitely dead body of Mary Jane Kelly. Dr Bagster Phillips told the jurors that the cause of death was the severance of the right carotid artery. The jury gave a verdict of murder, and everybody went home, job done. Dr Roderick MacDonald was born in the Isle of Skye and was the son of a crofter. He was prominent in the Highland Law Reform Association and campaigned on behalf of crofters. In the election to be a coroner he had the support of East End radicals.
On October 16th 1888 George Lusk, the president of the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee, received a letter that was addressed as being ‘from hell’ and signed ‘catch me when you can’. The letter writer claimed he had eaten half of the kidney that had been taken from victim Catherine Eddowes. Attached to the letter was half a kidney. Members of the Vigilance Committee took the kidney to the surgery of Dr Frederick Wiles at 56 Mile End Road. Dr Wiles was absent but his assistant F. S. Reed pronounced the kidney human and preserved it in spirits of wine. Reed took the preserved kidney to London Hospital where Dr Thomas Horrocks Openshaw confirmed that the kidney was human. The Press reported Dr Openshaw as saying that the kidney belonged to a woman that drank alcohol. Later, Dr Openshaw wrote to The Times and stated that he was able to confirm the kidney was human but nothing more. Dr Openshaw was a prominent freemason and at some point Master of the Lancastrian Lodge. He was born in Bury, the home of the best black pudding in Europe. Dr Thomas Horrocks Openshaw was known to his friends as Tommy. Considering his middle name, it could have been worse.
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.