Starvation The Prolific Victorian Killer

Shocking and terrible as the deaths of the victims of Jack the Ripper were, there was, around the same time, another more prolific killer staling the poorest quarters London, and, in particular the slums of the East End of London.

This killer claimed the lives of many more victims than the Whitechapel murderer, and, although he often struck in plain view, and with many people actually witnessing the deaths of his victims, his insidious approach often went unnoticed by society it large.


The killer’s name was starvation, and his victims died horrible and lingering deaths.

Yet today, the fates of those victims are often overshadowed by the Jack the Ripper atrocities, and their names, if they are remembered or mentioned at all, are often mere footnotes in wider histories of the period.

I recently made a video on some of the people who, quite literally, starved to death in the Victorian East End of London. You can watch it below.


The number people who died from sheer want and privation in the two years prior to the Whitechapel is truly depressing. There were 32 in 1887, and 41 in 1886.

Put another way, in the two years prior to the five Jack the Ripper murders, starvation had claimed the lives of 73 victims; and yet, their painful and lingering deaths are largely ignored by authors who are either more focussed on solving the mystery of the Whitechapel murderer’s identity once and for all, or are pursuing an agenda the central tenet of which appears to be that if a victim wasn’t slain by Jack the Ripper then their lives and deaths didn’t really count.


However, in 1888, several commentators made the point that the sudden and violent nature of the Whitechapel atrocities were having a much stronger impact on bringing attention to the horrendous poverty in the East End of London than the efforts of social reformers and philanthropists ever could.

Most famous of these was George Bernard Shaw, who, in a letter titled “Blood Money To Whitechapel“, which was published in The Star newspaper on the 24th of September, 1888, made the point that:-

Private enterprise has succeeded where Socialism failed. Whilst we conventional Social Democrats were wasting our time on education, agitation, and organisation, some independent genius has taken the matter in hand, and by simply murdering and disembowelling four women, converted the proprietary press to an inept sort of communism.”


But, Shaw wasn’t the only commentator to decrie the huge amount of coverage that the newspapers were giving to the Whitechapel murders, whilst, at the same time, giving scant attention to the grinding poverty and destitution that were endemic in the district where the crimes were occurring.

On Saturday the 27th of October, 1888, under the headline, “Another Whitechapel Murder”, Justice – the weekly newspaper of the Social Democratic Federation – published the following opinion piece:-

“On Friday morning, a man named Robert Reynolds, aged forty-one, was found lying insensible on the pavement in Brady Street, Buck’s Row, Whitechapel. He was taken to the Bethnal Green Infirmary where he was found to be dead.

The cause of his death was stated to be destitution.


The place where this man was found was near the scene of one of the recent murders.

He, however, did not have his throat cut by any “Jack the Ripper,” and in consequence, his death has excited no comment.

But the fiend who murdered him is responsible for more murders than any other.

His name is Starvation and he is the creature of that Society which is shedding tears of crocodile sympathy over the victims of the more merciful if more sanguinary Whitechapel murderers.”

You can watch many more videos on the history of the East End of London on my YouTube Channel.