An Interview With Stefan Rantzow

Following her murder on 30th September 1888, Elisabeth Stride was laid to rest in the East London Cemetery, Grange Road, London E13 0HB, where it is still possible to visit her grave, where a headstone has been erected by the cemetery authorities.

A photo of the grave of Elizabeth Stride.
The Grave Of Elizabeth Stride, August 2016


Many people make the journey out to the cemetery to visit her grave and to spend a few moments in quiet contemplation at her graveside.

However, it was 120 years after her death before any of her relatives paid a visit to her grave, and the visit was arranged by a man who has done so much to keep her memory alive, Stefan Rantzow.

Following many years of dedicated research, Stefan Rantzow, from Malmo, in Sweden, was able to arrange for her descendants to visit her final resting place and, as he poignantly puts it, be “surrounded in death by the love of her family, which circumstances had prevented happening in 1888.”

Stefan managed to trace several of her descendants – the Jacobson brothers, Mikael, Olof and Arne – and discovered that they were very interested in the research he had conducted into their ancestor, so much so that they were inspired to travel to London in April 2008 to visit sites connected with her life in London to stand beside her grave.

In 2011, Stefan was able to trace an English woman named Sally Edmonds, who was living in France, and who was descended from John Thomas Stride, the estranged husband of Elisabeth, who had married her in London in 1869.
On July 2nd 2014, Stefan was able to arrange for Sally to meet with Jacobson brothers at the house in StoraTumlehed, Torslanda, near Gotheburg, where Elizabeth was born, as Elisabeth Gustafsdotter, in November 1843.

The descendants of Elizabeth Stride.
The Jacobson brothers show Sally and her husband John, first left, the house where Ripper victim Elizabeth was born in 1843. Photograph, Copyright, Stefan Rantzow.


Stefan has done so much to respect and keep the memory of Elizabeth Stride that I found myself wanting to know more about his remarkable story and the research he had conducted into her life and times.

I was also curious to know more about the reactions he got from her descendants when he contacted them about her.

He proved to be a very gracious recipient to my request for an interview, and below you can read his answers to the questions I put to him.

1. What was it that first got you interested in Elizabeth Stride?

I have always been interested in unsolved mysteries and crimes, but when I read about Elizabeth Stride in Donald Rumbelow’s book ”The Complete Jack the Ripper” in the 1970s, which was the only Ripper book at that time that was translated in Swedish, I really got interested in the case.

2. Do you think we should remember her as Elisabeth or as Elizabeth?

Well, when I remember her here in Sweden I always think about her as Elisabeth Gustafsdotter and during her life in England as Elizabeth Stride.

In some old church books from the Swedish Church in London, they combined her Swedish surname with her English name as Gustafsd Stride.

3. Why do you think that she decided to move to London in February, 1866?

This is still a mystery, but I think she went as a domestic servant with a family from the Swedish town of Gothenburg to London.

Gothenburg was at this time, in 1866, a town which was called, ”Little London” because a lot of wealthy men from England were doing business or starting companies in Gothenburg.

Maybe she went to London with a Swedish family going to London or an English family going back to London? At this time London was the biggest town in the world, so why not go?

4. What do you think she was like as a person?

I think she was a very stubborn, rebellious woman who wouldn’t take orders from anyone. I also have a feeling that ”maybe” she was the black sheep of the family? I have not found any documents saying that she had any contact with her parents or siblings when she lived in Gothenburg as a domestic servant.

5. When did you first visit her grave?

In 2007 I got a very shocking message from my doctor, a deadly disease, so instead of thinking about it, I decided to find all the relatives of Elizabeth. It took me three months of hard work, night and day, until I found all the relatives, 16 persons in total. (There are no more relatives then these 16 persons).

6. How did you set about tracing her descendants?

I traced them threw church books and public accounting documents.

7. What was their initial reaction when you first approached them?

Only three of them were really interested in the history of their relative – Elisabeth. Some of the other relatives had heard about the connection with Elisabeth, but none of them knew much about her. Apparently none of her relatives talked about Elizabeth. It was not popular to talk about a murdered prostitute woman in the family.

8. Did they know that their ancestor was a victim of Jack the Ripper?

Some of them did.

9. When you first contacted Sally Edmonds, did she know that she was descended from John Stride?

Yes, she did. When I first contacted her she had already done some research and had discovered her connection to him.

10. What was her initial reaction?

She was intrigued by the whole thing.

11. What was it like when the descendant of John and Elisabeth met?

Oh, it was a fantastic feeling.

I arranged this meeting so it took place in the same house where Elisabeth was born and had lived.

It is located in Stora Tumlehed, Torslanda, near Gothenburg.

12. You put a lot of time and effort into setting up the meetings and the trip to London with Elisabeth’s descendants. How rewarding was it for you?

At the time I planned all the meetings I was sick so I could not go to London. So I was like ”the spider in the net” sitting in my apartment talking and arranging meetings over the phone and the internet with people, so it was very rewarding.

Sometimes, I could actually feel the presence of Elisabeth guiding me. It was a very strange feeling and this feeling still occurs today, especially when I find new details out about her.