Mitre Square, London






It depended on money and status. The very rich had kettles made of silver. The affluent settled for copper. The poor were obliged to use kettles made of cast iron. There are few households in Britain that do not have a kettle, and it is not much different elsewhere. Human beings like to boil water. Ripper victim Mary Kelly was poor. Her kettle would have been made of cast iron. She was murdered in her home in Millers Court.

Inspector Abberline said this, ‘… I have taken an inventory of what was in the room, there had been a large fire so large as to melt the spout off the kettle I have since gone through the ashes in the grate and found nothing of consequence except that articles of a woman’s clothing had been burnt which I presume was for the purpose of light as there was only one candle in the room.’





Inspector Abberline was a successful policeman. Although the inventory he mentions was not subsequently located, there is nothing in the above statement that makes him sound stupid. Cloth burns at the same temperature as cast iron melts, around 1000° Centigrade.   A fire burning clothes could have melted the copper spout but, because the flames would have to travel further to reach the copper spout, only after the clothes had been burnt. And a fire is a source of light.   It is, though, an extravagant and uncomfortable way to light a room.   The reference to one candle by Abberline is ambiguous. It could mean that inside the room of Mary Kelly the supply of candles was limited to a single item or that only one candle could be burnt at a time because of where the candle was placed. A candle burns for five to seven hours. Most people, even the Victorian poor, had a spare ready to replace the one that was burning.   The rooms in Millers Court were small. If Mary Kelly had one candle, it was because she considered the light adequate to illuminate her room. The man who murdered her was invited into her room because she assumed he was a customer. Her commercial transaction would have required some light. Doctor Phillips stated that apart from the heart no organs were removed. The main purpose of the mutilations was to hack flesh from the bones. Subsequent surgeons have insisted that the injuries were inflicted by an axe. The Ripper did not need bright light.



In They All Love Jack the author Bruce Robinson argues that the murder and mutilation of Mary Kelly conformed to a ritual of vengeance described by Prophet Ezekiel.   This may sound fanciful but both the New York Herald and English journalist George R Sims also made the connection. Sims described the Ripper as ‘the man who has taken the Book of Ezekiel too literally’. Robinson goes further and connects the ritual to freemason knowledge and symbolism. We can baulk at the idea of freemason conspiracy but we have to acknowledge the point Robinson makes about the kettle.   If the Ripper needed light from the fire to help him strip the body of Mary Kelly down to the bone, he would have moved the kettle out of the fireplace.   In They All Love Jack the quotes from Revelation are juggled together by Robinson and we read this ‘… these shall make her desolate and naked, and shall eat her flesh, and burn her with fire.’

Robinson argues that the fire had one essential purpose, which was to burn the flesh that had been hacked away from the body of Mary Kelly.  Apart from two contradictory references to a chemise the autopsy makes no reference to what clothes were left in the room, if any. Neither does the autopsy record that there was missing flesh. There was a reference to a missing heart. Flesh may have been burnt in the fire, as Robinson suggests.


Bruce Robinson can be scathing about the conclusions of others. He is convinced that the silence from the Press and Police after the murder of Kelly was part of a conspiracy to shield the ritual of the murder and protect the reputation of Freemasonry.   Those tempted like me to wonder if it was a withdrawal from inconceivable horror are regarded as simple souls.   He may be right. We all have blind spots, and that includes Bruce Robinson.   Although he is responsible for the selection of clauses in the constructed but not inappropriate quote from Revelation, he appears to ignore his own reference to ‘and shall eat her flesh’. Later in They all Love Jack we read a quote from Ezekiel, Chapter 24 Number 5. ‘Boil water in a pot and boil bones in it. Consume the flesh.’ It is a shame that Ezekiel had such a judgemental nature. More tolerance and he could have been a rival for Delia Smith.

The fire in a Victorian home had other uses besides heating the room.   It would be used for drying clothes in damp weather. More important all the meals of the family would be cooked on the fire. Inspector Abberline said ‘the large fire was so large as to melt the spout of the kettle.’ He could have said the fire inside the cooker was so large that it melted the kettle on top of the grill.


The notion of cannibalism feels like a wild idea but what happened inside the home of Mary Kelly on the final day of her life was both extreme and bizarre. The behaviour of the police outside was also a little odd. The police entered the room of Mary Kelly two and three quarter hours after her dead body was discovered by rent collector Thomas Bowyer.   The explanation is that they were waiting for the arrival of bloodhounds to follow a trail.   Supposedly it took nearly three hours for the idea to be dismissed as impractical.  The notion that street policemen, medical officials and Whitehall administrators could stand patiently outside a murder scene until someone mentioned that, as it happened, the police no longer owned the bloodhounds is absurd.   Terror and unease inside the hearts of policemen are more feasible explanations.   Something spooked the police and it was serious enough to silence the Press. Establishment conspiracies exist but if we ignore them then we are left with horror and that is enough to make policemen secretive.

Cannibalism was the ultimate horror. Medical opinion decided that the victims of the Ripper died before the mutilations began. Those on the street had more luck than Mary Kelly.  If the Ripper was a cannibal, all that he could eat of his victims in the street was the odd keepsake like a womb, heart or kidney.   Mary Kelly lost flesh where it was most abundant, her thighs and arms. These were also the limbs that were missing from the three female corpses that were discovered in London in 1888. It is clear from the murder of Mary Kelly that the Ripper behaved differently inside the home of a victim from when he was slaying women on the street. If he did have the opportunity to work in his own home, and it is a big if, he may have created at least one of those torsos. As with Mary Kelly, we have to wonder what happened to the missing flesh and limbs in the three Torso murders.



Bruce Robinson not only ignores his reference to ‘and shall eat her flesh’ he is also casual about the statement from a witness that was reported in the Pall Mall Gazette.  Robinson quotes the Gazette. ‘A gentleman engaged in business, stated he was walking through Mitre Square at about ten minutes past ten on Friday morning, when a tall well dressed man carrying a parcel under his arm, and rushing along in a very excited manner, ran into him. The man’s face was covered with blood splashes, and his collar and shirt were also blood stained. The gentleman did not know at the time anything of the murder.’

This witness was not called to an inquest that should have been complicated and time consuming but was completed in a single day.  What is important in this statement is the location of the blood on the possible assassin.   The only areas stained by blood are the face of the man and the collar of his shirt.  If the gentleman in Mitre Square did see Jack the Ripper then his sighting suggests that whatever the way the Ripper murdered his victim he put his face close to where his victim was bleeding. The tall well dressed man that the gentleman saw had bloodstains on his face of the kind that we associate with a vampire. The tall well dressed man looked like someone who had been feeding but it may have been on more than blood.  The room, when the police finally entered in the afternoon, was still very warm, too darn hot for vampires and anything other than an explanation that frightened the authorities into being secretive.

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.





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Conspiracy or cock up, either way whatever occurred in Goulston Street in the early hours of the 30th September 1888 points towards something odorous. In simpler language it stinks. This is what happened. At 2.55 a.m. PC Long passed 118-119 Goulston Street, the entrance to Wentworth Model Dwellings. On his previous tour he had passed the archway at 2.20 a.m. The hallway was about five foot deep and dark but PC Long noticed a piece of apron on the floor below the stairs that led to the dwellings or flats.   The apron was smeared with blood.  PC Long stepped into the passageway and saw that there was writing on the wall.  Reports are vague about which wall but Superintendent Arnold stated that the chalk writing ‘was in such a position that it would have been rubbed out by the shoulders of persons passing in and out of the building.’ That implies the writing had not been there long and it was left on a wall at the side of the archway, perhaps the wall at the right of the entrance.   The wall was divided by a border, and the writing was on the black dado, the lower half. The bricks above the border were white. This is what the writing said or almost said. ‘The Juwes are the men that will not be blamed for nothing.’ Amongst the witnesses there was a difference of opinion about the spelling of the word Jews, Juwes or Juews and where the negative was placed in the sentence.

Prior to the discovery of the apron and the writing on the wall two murders had been committed that morning. Liz Stride was discovered dead around 1 a.m., and 45 minutes later PC Edward Watkins found the mutilated body of Catherine Eddowes in Mitre Square.  Apart from being the scene of a brutal crime the location is important because Mitre Square was covered by the City Police.   Goulston Street came under the jurisdiction of the Metropolitan Police.


After discovering the apron and seeing the writing on the wall PC Long called PC 190H, whose name is not recorded. PC Long asked PC 190H to keep guard at the entrance to 118-119 Goulston Street. Detectives arrived and these included Superintendent Arnold from the Metropolitan Police. Detective Halse and Major Smith who had visited the body of Eddowes in the mortuary also came to Goulston Street. Because both the Metropolitan Police and the City Police were interested in the discoveries by PC Long, more detectives arrived. Plenty were available because the City Police had recruited additional men to patrol the streets of their territory.  They had hoped to prevent the murders in Whitechapel spilling over into the City.

Superintendent Arnold of the Metropolitan Police wanted the writing to be washed away because, so it was said, it would inflame anti-Jewish feeling in Whitechapel. The dwellings at Goulston Street were occupied by local Jewish people. Superintendent Arnold left an inspector in charge until Sir Charles Warren could make a decision about what should happen to the writing.  Armed with a bucket and sponge the inspector waited. Superintendent McWilliam of City Police also made some decisions. He ordered the residences in the building to be searched. Unlike Superintendent Arnold the City Police Superintendent wanted the writing on the wall to be at least photographed. Superintendent McWilliam visited the mortuary and matched the piece of apron to the apron that the victim Eddowes was wearing. Whether McWilliam expected the writing to be photographed while he was absent is not known. Despite the difference in opinion and the presence of detectives who had a territorial interest in what happened next both Superintendents felt they could leave the scene of the crime.


Sir Charles Warren arrived at Goulston Street at 5.00 a.m.  Following discussion and perhaps heated argument Warren ordered the writing to be washed away. This happened at 5.30 a.m. and as daylight arrived. Without the daylight the arguments may have been more protracted. No photographs were taken. The evidence was lost.   Six weeks later Sir Charles Warren was no longer Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police.

The official explanation is that the writing on the wall if seen could have caused an anti-Semitic riot. Superintendent Arnold mentioned what had happened after the rumours of a Jewish killer called Leather Apron. There had been ill feeling to suspicious characters but no riot. Neither was there a riot after the writing became public knowledge. Even if the fears of rioting were valid they only justified concealing the existence of the evidence. There were no grounds for destruction. When the writing was discovered, the police thought they were hunting a man who had killed six women with escalating savagery.   A compromise had been suggested before Sir Charles Warren arrived.  The writing could have been washed away after a photograph was taken. In view of the misgivings of the rival police force it is odd that Warren made such an emphatic decision.


Opinion regarding the behaviour of Sir Charles Warren at Goulston Street has become polarised. His defendants argue that he was right to be concerned about social unrest. Some of his critics claim a masonic conspiracy and insist that the actual spelling of Jews in the writing was either ‘Juwes’ or ‘Juewes’.   Their belief is that ‘Juwes’ refers not to the Jewish people but to the three men who murdered Hiram Abiff the architect of Solomon’s Temple. The three men were called Jubelo, Jubela and Jubelum. Sir Charles Warren was an enthusiastic freemason who had excavated below Solomon’s Temple.  Some of the conspiracy theories to emerge have been fanciful but a masonic conspiracy does not have to exist for us to wonder whether Sir Charles Warren that morning reacted to the writing as a freemason rather than an objective policeman.   We should be wary of creative theories but we are obliged to be suspicious.

Sir Charles Warren had Chief Inspector Donald Swanson employed at Scotland Yard to ensure that all aspects of the investigation reached the desk of the Commissioner. Neither man was disposed to visit the East End.  Somehow a senior policeman who had resisted viewing the scenes where brutal murders had occurred was persuaded in the early hours of the morning to visit Goulston Street and read a scrawl on a wall.


Suspicion is enhanced by the action of the police that followed. The reports from PC Long, Superintendent Arnold and Sir Charles Warren were delayed for almost a week and then all arrived on the same day. The suspicious believe that the police were taking time to reinvent what happened and line up their accounts. The newspapers reported that ‘Juwes’ was how the Polish immigrants referred to Jewish people. Without any supporting evidence Warren suggested that the spelling was probably Irish. Again it feels like misdirection had occurred.

The claim by Chief Inspector Walter Dew that the writing was no more than graffiti typical of the area is unconvincing. Casual graffiti is written where it is obvious and can be seen by passers by.  This is why motorway bridges and the sides of subway trains became popular locations. The writing on the wall was left in a dark doorway and next to a piece of leather apron stained with the blood of the most recent victim. The capital letters in the sentence were recorded as being three quarters of an inch high and the rest were in proportion. This is not typical graffiti and its coexistence alongside a piece of bloodied apron is an odd coincidence. It may or may not have been teasing from a killer who needed to pass some time out of sight.  But, if that were the case, why would Jack the Ripper be carrying a piece of chalk?



Between the polemical arguments there is a mundane explanation that has so far been missed. The murder of Catherine Eddowes created a problem for the City and Metropolitan Police. The Metropolitan Police had authority over the clues, and the City Police had a murder to investigate in Mitre Square.   The likelihood of conflict and bruised feelings in a busy and claustrophobic archway at Goulston Street on the morning of the 30th September is not remote. An argument over authority could have easily escalated into a turf war that soon became an irrational battle. Sir Charles Warren had already been bruised by his arguments with Charles Monro over the independence of the CID. The dispute at 118-119 Goulston Street may have been an unbearable insult for an exasperated and weary man.


But there are a lot of freemasons in the British Police, and a man who could be compelled to irrationality by a simple dispute with a neighbouring police force is also capable of responding to writing on a wall that suggests freemason knowledge. The dismissal of the alternative interpretation of the word Juwes or Juewes has been perfunctory. The claim that in 1888 there was only one masonic term for the three ‘ruffians’ that murdered the architect of Solomon’s Temple feels not just silly and defensive but deceitful.  Conspiracy or cockup are the alternative theories of history, and that morning of the 30th September 1888 Sir Charles Warren managed to provide evidence to support either interpretation. Over the 130 years that have elapsed since that damp morning in Goulston Street the colleagues and supporters of Sir Charles Warren have not helped him.

 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.