Jack The Ripper and the Grapes

It is a strange thing that much of what we know about the Jack the Ripper killings is, in fact, influenced by what films on the subject have shown.

Over on our Jack the Ripper Facebook page, we regularly ask questions about who Jack the Ripper was and ask our community to name the suspect who they think was most likely to have been responsible for the murders.

Several times it will come back that he must have been wealthy because he could afford to buy grapes with which to lure his victims.

Now, in all honesty, there is no evidence to suggest that grapes were involved in the killings at all.

In the aftermath of the murder of Elizabeth Stride, which took place in a dark yard off Berner Street on 30th September 1888, a dubious character named Matthew Packer came forward to claim that he had sold grapes to Elizabeth Stride and a mystery man shortly before her body was discovered a short distance away from his shop, which was located at 44 Berner Street.

However, Paker’s credibility is severely undermined by the fact his statements as to what he saw kept changing and evolving as more and more facts were made public in the aftermath of the Stride murder.

Indeed, Dr George Bagster Phillips, the Divisional Police Surgeon, who carried out the post mortem on Elizabeth Stride’s body was adamant that she had “swallowed neither skin or seed of grape within many hours of her death.”

But, thanks to Packer’s willingness to talk freely to the press, the idea of Elizabeth Stride and the grapes caught the public imagination at the time, and it wasn’t long before the story of the grapes became an integral part of the Jack the Ripper legend.

This has since passed into to folklore and several films have shown an upper class ripper – resplendent in his top hat and cape for good measure – luring his poverty stricken victims to their deaths by dangling a seductive bunch of tempting grapes in front of them.