One of the many mysteries about the Whitechapel murderer, or Jack the Ripper as he is more commonly known the world over, is where did he live?
The honest answer to that question has to be a resounding, we simply do not know. How could we know where he lived when we do not know for certain who he was?
THE TOP-HATTED TOFF
There have, over the years, been suggestions that he was a wealthy toff, and that he would, therefore, have lived in the West End of London.
This, of course, is reinforced in the minds of many by the popular image of the killer’s attire – top hat, swirling cape and shiny black bag. Indeed, I would venture that if you were to ask people to close their eyes and bring to mind a mental image of Jack the Ripper, that is the image that would come most readily to mind.
HE PROBABLY DRESSED LIKE A LOCAL
However, if there is one certainty abut the East End murderer, it is that he almost certainly did not dress like that.
Indeed, the fact that he could carry out his brutal and gruesome murders in the backstreets of the East End and then, seemingly, melt away, unobserved and unnoticed, into the night would suggest that, far from being dressed in the attire of a toff, he would have been dressed as a local.
And, if he dressed as local, then that would suggest that he probably was a local and that he, therefore, lived in the very district where he was committing his crimes. This, of course, would answer the question of how he was able to melt away into the night having committed his awful atrocities. If he had somewhere close by to which he could go as quickly as possible after each murder, then he would have been out in the streets for minimal time and the danger of him attracting attention or being noticed would have been reduced to a minimum.
ONLY ONE CLUE
The big problem with ascertaining where the killer was living is that he left very few clues behind in the wake of his crimes. Indeed, as far as we know, he only left one clue.
That clue was the piece of bloodstained apron that had been cut from the apron that Catherine Eddowes was wearing at the time of her murder in Mitre Square on the 30th September, 1888.
The apron was found in a Goulston Street doorway of the Wentworth Model Dwellings at 2.55am on the morning of the 30th of September by the beat officer Alfred Long. There were bloody hand and finger marks on it and the blade of a bloody knife had been wiped on it.
When taken to the mortuary, it matched exactly to the remainder of the apron of Catherine Eddowes, and so there was absolutely no doubt that it was indeed a portion of her garment.
IT TELLS US WHERE HE WAS HEADING
This is a geographic clue, as it tells us which direction the killer went in the aftermath of the killing of Catherine Eddowes.
Remember, this was the night of the double murder, and he had already murder Elizabeth Stride 45 or so minutes before the body of Catherine Eddowes was discovered in Mitre Square.
The killer would almost certainly have realised that he would soon have two police forces on his trail – Catherine had been murdered in Mitre Square, which was in the City of London and was, therefore, under the jurisdiction of the City of London Police as opposed to that of the Metropolitan Police, the force that was responsible for the investigation into the other Whitechapel murders.
Obviously, remaining out of doors for longer than he needed to do so was putting himself at risk of being caught. Consequently, he would have wanted to go to ground as quickly as he could.
So, it is almost certain that he would have headed home in the wake of the murder of Catherine Eddowes.
HE HEADED INTO THE EAST END
From the state of the apron, we know that he would have had blood on his hands, and, of course, on the blade of his knife. This would have been incriminating were he to be observed by a police officer, or even a vigilant member of the public. So he probably took the apron away in order to erase the incriminating bloodstains.
Had he stood in the streets and wiped his hands, this might have been noticed. But a recessed and unlit doorway in Goulston Street would provide the perfect cover for the nefarious deed. Stepping into the doorway, he would have wiped his hands and his knife, then dropped the apron and stepped out into the night.
This means that, having made his escape from Mitre Square, he didn’t head to the West End of London. He headed into the streets of the Est End of London, which would suggest that he was somebody who lived in the district of Whitechapel.
Of course, all this is nothing more than conjecture. Indeed, any suggestion as to who Jack the Ripper was and where he lived will always be mere speculation, unless, that is, the day ever comes when the identity of history’s most infamous serial killer is established beyond any reasonable doubt.