The Great Mystery of Jack the Ripper, Part II

Mega Genius® Intelligence Briefing [31]:


Warning: The subject  of this Intelligence Briefing may not be suitable for minors or the mentally impaired.


Part II:  A Brutal Affair


About three weeks later, the Ripper attacked his second victim, Mary Nichols.  She was known to her friends as “Polly” and had just celebrated her forty-third birthday five days before.

Polly had been born in London and married at age 18 to William Nichols, a printer’s machinist.  Although they had five children, unfortunately their marriage ended after 16 years.  William continued to raise their children and paid an allowance to Polly for the next year or two until he learned that she was living with another man, after which he seldom saw her.  Thereafter, she drank heavily, worked at various menial jobs, scraped to get by, and prostituted.  In many unfortunate ways, her life was quite similar to that of Martha Tabram.

On 31 August 1888, at 1:20 a.m., an impoverished, destitute and intoxicated Polly turned up at a common lodging-house, but was turned away by the lodging-house deputy because she did not have money for a bed for the night.  Polly then asked the deputy to hold a bed for her while she got the money, laughing that she would get it soon, and shouting, “See what a jolly bonnet I’ve got now!” sporting a new hat of black straw, trimmed in black velvet.

At 2:30 a.m., Ellen Holland, a friend, spotted Polly four blocks from The Ten Bells, very intoxicated.  “I have had my lodging money three times today,” Polly laughed, “and I have spent it ….  It won’t be long before I’ll be back.”  Then she left, tottering alone into the night along Whitechapel Road.  Neither Ellen Holland nor any of Polly Nichols’ other friends would ever see her alive again.

About a 10-minute walk east of there, in the direction that Polly headed, was the Royal London Hospital.  That was where Joseph [often misreported as John] Carey Merrick, known as the famous “Elephant Man,” would take up residence a couple of years later and spend the rest of his life.  Just one block north of that hospital was Buck’s Row, a narrow gloomy street patrolled by Constable John Neil.  As he walked its length, at about 3:15 a.m., the policeman noticed nothing unusual.

At about 3:40 a.m., Charles Cross, on his way to work, saw a body lying along the side of Buck’s Row, across the gated entrance to a stable yard, near the large Board School building.  He ran for help.  Five minutes later, patrolling Constable Neil discovered the body, too.

The woman was lying on her back, with her skirts raised, and with various stabbings about the trunk of her body.  Her abdomen had been viciously ripped open from her breastbone to below her pelvis, leaving her intestines protruding.  Beside her left hand was a new black straw bonnet, trimmed with black velvet.



Mary Nickols was murdered just to the left of the bush.

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According to the evidence, apparently Jack the Ripper had been standing in front of Polly Nichols when he suddenly seized her high about the throat with his left hand, in a brutal strangling grasp, quickly bent her backward toward the ground, and sliced her throat from ear to ear, in two violent opposing slashes.  Silently, both carotid arteries had been severed, along with her esophagus, her windpipe, and all the flesh clear to her vertebrae.  Polly had been no match for the Ripper, who had almost decapitated her.

At about 4:05 a.m., Dr. Rees Ralph Llewellyn arrived on the scene and pronounced Polly Nichols dead.  Later he would state, “I have seen many terrible cases, but never such a brutal affair as this.”  Most of her body was still warm.  At that time, Dr. Llewellyn did not think that she could have been dead for more than half an hour.

Since Polly could not have been killed before about 3:35 a.m., according to Dr. Llewellyn, and since Charles Cross had discovered her body at about 3:40 a.m., then about five minutes, or less, was all the time that Jack the Ripper had … but that was all the time that Jack the Ripper had needed.  Then he had vanished like a phantom into the night.  Neither patrolling Constable Neil, nor a nearby watchman, nor any of about a dozen residents of the dilapidated cottages alongside the gated stable yard had heard any sound or been aware of the slightest suspicious activity.

Despite repeated examinations of the crime scene and careful questioning of all possible suspects, the police were as dumbfounded as they had been after the Ripper’s first murder.  A week later, Inspector Joseph Helson, in charge of the investigation, admitted, “… not an atom of evidence can be obtained to connect any person with the crime.”

The police, however, would have a third chance, for only a few hours after Inspector Helson’s admission, the maniac would attack again, more gruesomely than ever … in the daylight.

Annie Chapman’s life had not gone well.  Then she met Jack the Ripper.

She had married a coachman, John Chapman.  They had three children, the last of whom was crippled.  Then their 12-year-old daughter, Emily Ruth, died of meningitis, and their marriage was unable to survive the tragedy.  Both parents slipped into alcoholism and then separated.

John contributed to Annie’s support for several years, until he died of cirrhosis of the liver, in 1886, on Christmas Day.  At age 47, Annie’s pain of having lost her daughter, and then both her husband and source of support, was crushing.  With a broken heart and the inability to maintain herself properly, she grieved, sold flowers and crocheted articles, drank excessively, endured an infection of tuberculosis, and resorted to prostitution.  Everyone knew the defeated woman as “Dark Annie.”

On 4 September, a friend of Annie, Amelia Palmer, saw her looking poorly near The Ten Bells.  She was not feeling well and had not had any food to eat that day.  Amelia gave her a pittance and told her not to buy rum.

Three days later, Amelia saw Annie again near The Ten Bells.  Annie told Amelia that she felt quite ill, but knew that she would have to pull herself together and get some money or she would have no bed for the night.

A few hours later, on 8 September 1888, at about 1:45 a.m., a nearly inebriated Annie told a lodging-house deputy that although she did not have money for her bed, she knew how to get it.  “I shall soon be back,” she insisted, “Don’t let the bed.”  John Evans, the night watchman, then watched her as she wandered toward The Ten Bells, only a block to the east.  It was then about 1:50 a.m.

Just a block north of The Ten Bells, about four hours later, in the backyard at 29 Hanbury Street, all hell was about to break loose.

The house at 29 Hanbury Street had been built for Spitalfields weavers, thousands of whom were Protestants, called Huguenots, who had been persecuted in France.  They had sought refuge in England, particularly Spitalfields, from 1670 to 1710.  Incidentally, the interior of The Ten Bells nearby was graced with a splendid, ceramic, 25-square-foot mural of a weaver displaying her fabrics a century before.  It was titled, Spitalfields in ye Olden Time: Visiting a Weaver’s shop.  Later, the weavers’ house at 29 Hanbury Street had been converted into dwellings for the poor.  By 1888, the domicile had seen better days.

Some parts of No. 29 were commercial.  Downstairs, Mrs. Hardiman ran a cats’ meat shop.  This was deteriorating horse meat, dyed blue or green to indicate that it was no longer fit for human consumption, and then sold as food for cats.  Upstairs, Mrs. Richardson sold packing cases.  Several other persons were employed there, but it was primarily residential.  To 17 persons, the jam-packed dingy structure was actually home.

Behind the house was a backyard, about 12 feet by 15 feet, enclosed by a fence about five and a half feet high.  Aside from entering through the front door, passing through the residents’ house, and then exiting through the backdoor, the only access to the backyard was through a “side door.”  It was along the street and to the immediate left of the front door and led through a narrow 25-foot passage along the left side of the house and into the backyard.

At about 4:50 a.m. John Richardson, the son of the woman who sold packing cases, stopped by No. 29 on his way to work at Old Spitalfields Market.  He merely wanted to ensure that things were secure in his mother’s backyard, as he customarily did.  No one was in the backyard at that time and he saw nothing unusual.  Then he hurried on his way.  Old Spitalfields Market, only a block away, was about to open for business at 5:00 a.m.



The location where Mrs. Long passed the Ripper in

1888 looks considerably different nowadays.

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Just before 5:30 a.m., a few minutes after sunrise, Mrs. Elizabeth Long walked along Hanbury Street.  She was on her way to Old Spitalfields Market, too.  As she drew near No. 29, she saw Annie Chapman, who was facing her on the sidewalk, talking with a man whose back was toward Mrs. Long.  About all that Mrs. Long noticed as she approached him from behind was that he was about five feet seven inches tall, dark-complexioned, and had a respectable appearance.  She thought he was dressed in a dark-colored coat.  In addition, he wore a brown deerstalker, similar to the hat with visors at the front and back worn by Sherlock Holmes.  As Mrs. Long passed them, she heard the man ask, “Will you?”

Annie replied “Yes.”  Mrs. Long paid no attention and continued along the sidewalk toward Old Spitalfields Market.

That man was almost certainly the Jack the Ripper!

It is most unfortunate that Mrs. Long did not glimpse the man’s face.  Nevertheless, she was fortunate, indeed.  In all probability, Elizabeth Long passed within inches of Jack the Ripper, while he was prowling for another victim … and lived to tell about it!  For the rest of her life!

Albert Cadosch lived at No. 27 Hanbury Street, next door to No. 29.  Only the wooden fence, described earlier, separated the backyards of the two dwellings.  Apparently only a couple of minutes after Mrs. Long saw Annie and the man who wore the deerstalker talking on the street, Mr. Cadosch, stepped into his backyard.  Then he heard voices just a few feet away, on the other side of the fence, in the backyard of No. 29.  The only part of the conversation that was intelligible was the word “No.”

Mr. Cadosch then went back inside but stepped out into his backyard again about three or four minutes later.  Then he heard the sound of something falling against the fence.  Then he went back inside and left for work.  When he passed The Ten Bells, a block away, it was just after 5:30 a.m.



Where Chapman was murdered in 1888.

The drawing shows the backyard steps.


John Davis, an elderly gentleman who lived at No. 29, woke up at about 5:45 a.m. and had a cup of tea, just to start the day off right.  Then, at about 6:00 a.m., he opened the main door to the backyard.  The sight that he encountered shocked him almost to death.  Just a few feet to his left, alongside the wooden fence, were strewn some of the gruesome remains of Annie Chapman.  (Imagine the creature that he would have encountered, and the kind of day that he would have had, if he had opened his backdoor fifteen minutes earlier, before he had his spot of tea.)

Annie was lying on her back, with her left arm resting on her left breast, with her legs drawn up and her knees spread.  Her skirts had been thrown up to her abdomen.

The Ripper had strangled her, had slashed her throat twice, from ear to ear, and had then unsuccessfully tried twice to separate the bones of her neck with his knife, in a failed attempt to cut off her head.  Then he had disemboweled her, tossing part of her stomach on the ground above her left shoulder and dumping her intestines and a flap of her abdomen above her right shoulder.  He had then cut out another part of her abdominal wall, her uterus, two-thirds of her bladder, and the upper part of her vagina, and had left, taking all those parts with him.

At 6:10 a.m., Inspector Joseph Chandler arrived on the scene, followed at 6:30 a.m. by Dr. George Phillips, who had 23 years of experience as a police surgeon.  Dr. Phillips saw no indications of a struggle and determined that the murder had occurred at that location.  Later he would state, “I myself could not have performed all the injuries I saw on that woman, and effect them even without a struggle, [in] under a quarter of an hour.”

None of the 17 residents of No. 29 had seen or heard anything, even though five of them lived in rooms that overlooked the murder scene, and some of them had slept with their windows open, and the Ripper had butchered Annie in the daylight.

He had not even paused at a spigot in the backyard to wash his gory hands.  Imagine what he must have looked like emerging from the passageway, through the side door, and onto the sidewalk of Hanbury Street, in the sunlight, in some manner with all of Annie’s bloody organs.  Who would have dared to commit such a crime and attempt such an escape?  That was one of the few questions that Scotland Yard could answer: Jack the Ripper.

Again, it seemed that he had nearly been caught, but not quite.  Newspaper reporters were in a frenzy!  Londoners were in a panic!  Scotland Yard was under the most intense pressure to stop an incomprehensible maniac before he massacred again.  Even so, despite following up hundreds of leads, searching numerous homes, and interrogating every conceivable suspect, Scotland Yard was still without what they called “the slightest clue.”

It would be three weeks before Jack the Ripper would stalk the streets of Whitechapel again, but when he did he would leave a trail of mayhem a mile long.

Select this link to continue to Part III: "Completely Defeated."

No. 32    The Great Mystery of Jack the Ripper, Part III 
  “Completely Defeated”
 16 Sep 2005

Mega Genius®

16 September 2005


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