Arguably the most infamous serial killer of all time, Jack the Ripper was responsible for a wave of terror gripping London’s East End, during 1888. He has been accused of killing at least five women and mutilating their bodies, displaying a basic knowledge of the human anatomy. The murders took place in relatively quick succession, after which they abruptly halted. Despite countless investigations, the killer has never been identified, and his motives remain unknown. There have been more than 100 suspects named, including the grandson of Queen Victoria and a famous Victorian painter, Walter Sickert.
During the 19th century, the East End was known for its squalor, violence and crime. The area was packed with brothels, and prostitution was widespread. The murder of sex workers was considered a hazard of the profession, and the topic not discussed in polite society. The brutality of the 1888 killings, however, became the talk of the town, as many began to fear for their lives and speculate as to the killer’s identity and if he would ever be caught. Also known as Leather Apron, Jack the Ripper butchered his victims, often removing their uteruses and kidneys. This suggested a deep hatred for the female gender, as well as a disturbed mind.
The press dedicated many of its articles at the time to details, questions and speculations about the case, contributing to its widespread knowledge. The killer was at first referred to as Leather Apron, The Whitechapel Murderer or Red Fiend, but was given the now infamous name Jack the Ripper shortly after September 30, 1888, the night he committed a double murder. A few days before, The Central News Agency had received a boastful letter, claiming to be from the killer, describing the way in which he murdered his victims, threatening to kill and mutilate more and confirming that he wouldn’t stop until he had been caught. It was signed…Jack the Ripper.
The number of letters that the police had received caused them to be sceptic about this one’s true origin, at first. Following the double murder, authorities reviewed the letter and admitted that it must have been sent by the real killer. The brief period between its arrival and the double murder placed emphasis on the line, ‘I want to get to work right away if I get the chance.’ The writer also threatened to ‘clip the ladys ears off and send to the police officers.’ One of the victim’s ears had really been cut off, confirming that the letter had not been a hoax.
The police released a copy on October 1st, after which they received a postcard, with blood on it, from the killer referring to the double murder. During the investigation, Jack the Ripper, sent the police other letters, including the ‘Letter from Hell’ received by one of the chief investigators along with half a human kidney. The letter claimed that the other half had been fried and eaten. Although, positively identified as a human, the kidney was dismissed as a hoax and, even though the letters continued, the real killer was never found.