On our first visit to London, some 5 years ago, there was not nearly enough time to do all the things we would have liked. I’m not sure why I thought this time would be any different. Yes, we’ll be here a few days longer than the first time, but that is essentially meaningless. If one actually lives here, there is probably time to polish off the list…anything less is simply insufficient.
After a little recuperation at our hotel, a trip to Tower Hill (where our Ripper Walk will begin) reveals a nice little pub that offers up a good meal without being overloaded. That done, off we go to meet our tour guide Donald. Precisely at 7:30 he begins. Note for anyone thinking of doing a London Walk. They don’t wait – if the tour starts at 7:30, it doesn’t mean 7:31. 🙂 Don’t be late.
The following is a little gruesome…
Jack The Ripper started his notorious brutality on Aug. 6, 1888. One needs to understand London in those days. There were about 5 million people in London, with some 100 thousand of those being prostitutes. The general population were those that had and those that had not. Even those that had not, were divided into the deserving poor and the non-deserving poor.
Deserving poor were simply those who had a job that did not pay enough for them to eke out a decent living, but still a job that was ‘acceptable’. These people were given some support by the church and the government. Non-deserving were people that did not have their own home and/or no job. A lot of these happened to be women.
One of the prime contributing factors was the very inexpensive cost of Gin. It was not taxed, which made it better value than ale. It helped to ease the trials of daily existence but also led to a lot of marital discord. Men and women alike would partake (as it only cost 1/2 pence to get very drunk – a full pence would get you all but passed out). Eventually a woman might get kicked out of the home (or she would leave voluntarily just to escape the abuse) but that left her without a job, without a home and no support whatsoever. Remember, women had pretty much nothing in the way of equality at the time.
What did that leave her with? Her body. Sex was quick, out in the open (albeit dark shadows under a bridge, down very narrow and dark streets, etc), although barely profitable enough to make do. Most of these women were older (40 plus), and definitely not runway models. One encounter would produce 4 pence, enough for a room for the night. More encounters would allow for food, and of course, more gin. This would then lead to poorer decisions.
There are differing accounts of how many women Jack actually killed. The first one, on Aug. 7, is one of contention. As it was the first, it was also different in methodology. The savage mutilation wasn’t present. But keep in mind there was no forensic science, no serial killer profiling…nothing that today is commonplace. Martha Tabram was stabbed rather than sliced but close, in location, to the others. There was also, as with the rest, no apparent motive for the attack.
There were 5 more after that first one . All 5 had suffered strangulation (the only saving grace, if you will, as they were dead before the mutilations). They all had their throats cut from ear to ear, left to right, which led to massive hemorrhaging. They were all sliced open from groin to breastbone with much of their internal organs removed. How much organ removal and how bad the facial wounds seemed to increase with each victim. They were all left laying down, their legs spread apart, their dresses pulled up to their shoulders fully displaying the indignities done to them.
Mary Jane Kelly, the last victim on Nov. 9, 1888, was different than the rest. Due to circumstances in her life, she actually had her own home. She was young, in her twenties, and not unattractive. She did not have a job however (she was a woman after all) so her income options, like the others, were few.
Another difference, again because she had her own place, was the time involved. Where all the others had been very quick and all but in plain sight, Mary’s disfigurement took place over about 2.5 hours. After he finished, with her internal organs spread all over her bedroom, and her skin peeled off in large strips and stacked in layers, Jack also took her heart when he left.
Since her death much has been written and speculated about Jack. Regrettably there has never been anything definitive to tie Jack to anyone specific to the era. Apparently, the perfect crime can be, and has been, committed.