The Lights Go Out On Jack the Ripper

On 9th November 1888 Mary Kelly was murdered in her room in Miller’s Court, off Dorset Street. She is generally believed to have been the last of Jack the Ripper’s victims.

However, the Whitechapel Murders continued and several more prostitutes were murdered in the area over the next few years. Indeed, the last of the Whitechapel Murders was that of Frances Coles on Friday 13th November 1891.

But, what is interesting about the Mary Kelly murder is that, following it, the press frenzy that had occurred in the aftermath of the previous murders seemed to fizzle out. As we point out in our Jack the Ripper DVD, it was as if someone had flicked a light switch off.

One of the reasons that this happened was that the inquest into Mary Kelly’s death was opened and closed on the same day. The previous inquests into the deaths of the other victims, by contrast, had been prolonged affairs lasting several weeks. This gave the press the opportunity to report on testimony that revealed “new horrors” on a daily basis.

Two men walking past a house not noticed by a policeman.
Whitechapel 1888

With Mary Kelly’s inquest being such a short one the press were starved of the witness testimonies that, in some cases at least, they had so sensationalised. 

In the immediate aftermath of the Kelly murder there was frenzied press reporting. But, as the weeks went by and no further murders occurred, there was only so much that the newspapers could report on and so, it seems, they began losing interest in the case and, quite literally, the lights went out on Jack the Ripper.

Of course, the police were still out on the streets attempting to hunt him down. But, by early 1889, even they seem to have realised that, in that tiny room in Miller’s Court, the murderer had performed his swansong.

From a police point of view, the resignation of the Police Commissioner, Sir Charles Warren – who had become a convenient scapegoat and target for the more radical newspapers – seems to have triggered a relaxation of the press attacks on the police that had been rife throughout the autumn of 1888.