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Who was Jack the Ripper?
With a copycat killer on the loose in Whitechapel we look back at the original 1888 killings and wonder who the real Jack the Ripper was. Find out about the real-life suspects here.Read More
Who was Jack the Ripper?
In 1888, the gruesome murders of five prostitutes from London’s east end captured the attention of the western world. Never before had a series of killings been so publicized. As police scrambled to find those responsible for the murders, the public, the media, and other investigators began casting suspicion on a variety of characters. In the end, police were unable to determine who the Ripper was, and as the killings seemed to abruptly come to a stop towards the end of 1888, their leads dried up.
In Whitechapel, a copycat murderer begins re-enacting the Ripper killings more than 100 years later, leaving police desperate to find the killer. Here, we present a list of five individuals suspected as being the real Jack the Ripper.
While not identified at the time of the Ripper killings, Polish immigrant Aaron Kosminski was later pegged as a possible suspect by one of the chief investigators. Having worked as a hairdresser in Whitechapel during the time of the murders and later committed to an insane asylum, Kosminski was named a suspect by investigator Melville Macnaghten after being found to have “a great hatred of women…with strong homicidal tendencies.” However, later research has led some to question if Kosminski may have been confused with another institutionalized Polish Jew named Aaron, one Aaron Cohen, who had been known for exhibiting very violent tendencies. In contrast, Kosminski’s time at the asylum was recorded as being relatively harmless, mostly suffering from paranoia and auditory hallucinations. Kosminski died while institutionalized.
William Henry Bury:
Living in London’s East End at the time of the Whitechapel murders, William Henry Bury was strongly suspected by the media in the years following. At the time of the killings, Bury was living in the area with his wife Ellen, a former prostitute. While he was not deemed a suspect at the time of the killings in 1888, suspicion arose a year later when Bury killed his wife in a manner similar to that of the Ripper victims (strangulation and abdominal wounds inflicted with a knife). What made the case even more suspicious was Bury trying to pass off his wife’s death as a suicide, before admitting that he did not want to come forward because he did not want to be accused of being Jack the Ripper. Upon investigation, police found references to Jack the Ripper written in chalk outside Bury’s dwelling, though it is thought the writing could have come from local vandals. Bury was convicted and executed for his wife’s murder, but was never connected to the Whitechapel murders by investigators.
Dr. Thomas Neill Cream:
One of the more popular theories about Jack the Ripper was that the killer had to have some sort of medical knowledge to have been so methodical with the mutilation of his victims. Enter Dr. Thomas Neill Cream. Originally from Scotland, Cream set up shop in Canada where he practiced medicine in London, Ontario. After his wife passed away from a mysterious illness, Cream then moved to Chicago where he became a black-market surgeon, performing illegal abortions for prostitutes. During his time in Chicago, he was suspected in the death of one woman but later was later cleared. He was then convicted of poisoning a man after beginning an affair with the man’s wife and sent to prison. Officially, Cream arrived in London in 1891, two years after the Whitechapel murders, but some speculate that he was able to bribe his way out of prison to an early release and actually arrived in London a few years prior, placing him in the city at the time of the killings. The fact that Cream used to perform abortions, was later convicted of killing several London prostitutes (albeit by poisoning) and that some of the victims had their uterus’ removed, lead many to believe he was the Ripper. Finally, after being sentenced to hang for the poisonings, Cream’s last words before he fell through the trap door of the gallows were, “I am Jack…”
Seweryn Klosowski/George Chapman:
One of the primary suspects considered by Chief Inspector Frederick Abberline was another Polish immigrant by the name of Seweryn Klosowski, who later changed his name to George Chapman. Having arrived in the UK months prior to the start of the murders, Chapman worked as a barber in Whitechapel at the time of the killings and was later convicted in 1903 of poisoning three of his wives, for which he was sentenced to hanging. While some discount Chapman as a suspect due to his use of poison for the murder of his three wives, he was nonetheless a top suspect by lead investigator Abberline.
Mary “Jill the Ripper” Pearcey:
Another theory is that perhaps Jack the Ripper wasn’t even a man at all, but in fact a woman by the name of Mary Pearcey. The theories stem from Pearcey’s conviction in a horrific murder, in which Pearcey was found to have brutally killed another woman and her 18-month-old child. Pearcey’s motivation for the killings was apparently due to the fact that she and the woman shared a relationship with the same man, who was also the father of the murdered child. Examining the savagery with which Pearcey’s killings were conducted, the theory is that if Pearcey was capable of such horror, could she have also been the Ripper?