As the end of July approached in 1888 the people of the East End of the London had no inclination of the horror with which they would find themselves confronted by the beginning of the September of that year.
The question I’d like to consider in this blog is whether or not the criminal who history now knowns as Jack the Ripper was planning his murder spree or whether even he had no idea of the terror he was to inflict on London at large in just over a month.
Of course, the problem for us today is that, because we don’t know who the ripper was, we have no idea of what the state of his mind was in the months leading up to the start of his crimes.
Was he, for example, out in the streets, touring them by night, getting an idea of their layout in order to later aid his escape from the scenes of his murders?
Was he, perhaps, stalking the prostitutes of the Wast End of London learning of their favoured beats and even going with some of them to learn how they operated?
Or was he simply spiralling into a state of mania that would explode in August 1888 with tragic consequences for the East End of London and for the five, or six, women who would become his victims?
Perhaps those victims saw him as he made his way around the streets of Whitechapel and Spitalfields and dismissed him as an eccentric who, although a little odd, was, otherwise, harmless?
There are so many questions that the Whitechapel Murders throw up that we can never hope to answer today. Yet it is these questions that make the case such a compelling and fascinating one.
I’ve been organising my Jack the Ripper Guided Tour now for just over 31 years and, with the rapidly approaching 125th anniversary of the start of the crimes, I still find myself as intrigued about the case as I was back in 1982 when I took my fist steps through the streets that the ripper roamed in 1888.
One thing is certain though. The streets I lead the tour through are the same streets that Jack the Ripper was later to terrorise.
As I explore them at this time of year, I can’t help pondering the fact that, somewhere in this labyrinth of dark alleyways and old streets, in July 1888 – perhaps even within the walls of one of the old houses that we pass – an unknown miscreant was preparing to unleash a murder spree on the people of the East End.