Press Illustrations About the Murders

As has been mentioned in many of our recent blogs on the Jack the Ripper murders, the newspapers were falling over themselves as they attempted to bring as many of the facts about the killing spree to their readers as they could.

Photography, was very much, in its infancy in 1888, and those newspapers that did illustrate their articles did so with sketches that, to us today, might seem rather crude.

And yet, for many of the people of England in the 19th century, these press drawings were how they learnt about the major events of their day and, as a result, some of the drawings were quite detailed and, as a consequence, they provide us with an unrivalled opportunity to look back on the autumn of 1888 and see the Jack the Ripper murders through the eyes of journalists and illustrators who were out on the streets witnessing first hand the people and events that were playing a part in the unfolding saga of the Whitechapel Murders.


This first image shows the crowds that gathered in Berner Street in the wake of the murder of Elizabeth Stride there on 30th September 1888.

Crowds gather outside the entrance to Dutfield's Yard where Elizabeth Stride was murdered.
Crowds Outside Dutfield’s Yard

The second image shows Louis Diemshutz holding up a lighted match as he stumbles upon the prone form of Elizabeth Stride in Dutfield’s Yard.

An sketch of club steward Louis Diemshutz finding the body of victim Elizabeth Stride.
Louis Diemshutz Finds Elizabeth Stride’s Body.


This next image shows PC Watkins arriving in Mitre Square at 1.45am on the 30th September 1888 and discovering the body of Catherine Eddowes in the south west corner of the square.

Pc Watkins shining his torch onto the prone form of Catherine Eddowes.
PC Watkins Finds Catherine Eddowes

Next, we see a somewhat dramatic image which, really does convey the excitement in the immediate aftermath of Catherine Eddowes’s murder as Police Constable Watkins blows his whistle to alert his fellow officers that the killer has struck again.

Pc Wtakins standing over the body of Catherine Eddowes and blowing his whistle.
Watkins Raises The Alarm

In the next image we see a group of City officers gathered around the spot in Mitre Square where the murder had taken place. It does provide us with a vivid impression of what the square must have looked like at the time of the killing.

A police constable and a detective look at the scene of the murder.
Murder Corner Mitre Square


This next image shows people gathered at the mortuary looking at the remains of the Berner Street victim, Elizabeth Stride. There is also a pencil sketch in the top right hand corner depicting Mary Malcolm, the mysterious lady who had claimed the deceased was, in fact, her sister Elizabeth Watts. This claim, which, as it transpired was erroneous, delayed an identification of Elizabeth Stride by several weeks.

A black and white image showing Elizabeth Stride at the mortuary.
Elizabeth Stride At The Mortuary

So there you have a selection of the images that gave many people who lived through the Jack the Ripper scare their ideas as to how the crimes were being played out on the streets of the East End of London. These sketches would have been the equivalent of our news channels today and would have been the closest that many 19th century citizens would have come to the locations at which the events of the Whitechapel Murders were being played out and would have been the way in which many of them would have learnt about the killings.