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Watch our documentary on Jack the Ripper, which was written by and is presented by Richard Jones and features contemporary photographs and illustrations of the locations as they were in 1888 as well as footage of them as they are today.
TAKE A JOURNEY BACK TO 1888
The name “Jack the Ripper” conjures up vivid images of fogbound Victorian alleyways where a sinister figure stalks the night in search of his unsuspecting prey.
Our truly atmospheric documentaries – which are written and narrated by author and historian Richard Jones – spirit you back to the autumn of 1888 when the Whitechapel Murderer brought terror and panic to the streets of the Victorian East End, and, in so doing, sent a wave of revulsion and horror coursing through society as a whole.
These thoroughly researched programmes include evocative photographs and images that give you a true insight into the area where the murders occurred, and they make extensive use of contemporary newspapers accounts, including interviews with police officers and others who were involved with the case, to help build a picture of a case that is as intriguing as it is mystifying.
FROM THE CREATOR OF UNMASKING JACK THE RIPPER
Richard Jones was the creator, writer and presenter of the acclaimed 2004 documentary Unmasking Jack the Ripper.
However, since this trendsetting video was made, much new information has come to light about various aspects of the case, including about the prime police suspect Aaron Kosminski.
So Richard’s new documentaries are presented as a series, a format that enables him to go into great detail about all aspects of the case and, in so doing, helps the viewer to gain an in depth insight into and understanding of well known and lesser known aspects of the Whitechapel murders.
FILMED ON LOCATION
Each documentary also features modern footage filmed on location in the East End of London. The viewer is, therefore, taken on a breath-taking journey into the heart of the Jack the Ripper mystery which follows every twist and turn of a case that has baffled and fascinated in equal measure for over 133 years.
So, join one of the world’s leading experts on the case for a tour de force that combines mystery and intrigue with gripping history and riveting social insight, and which recreates the atmosphere of that bygone era when a lone figure, prowling the dimly-lit thoroughfares of the Victorian East End, really did succeed in shaking society to its very core.
AN INTRODUCTION TO THE CASE
Our documentaries on the Jack the Ripper case are narrated and presented by our principle tour guide Richard Jones, and they provide a detailed analysis of the case and an introduction to London as it was in 1888, the year in which the Whitechapel Murders took place.
In short, this detailed series of documentaries builds a detailed picture of the Jack the Ripper mystery as it unfolded.
LIFE IN THE VICTORIAN EAST END – THE NEMESIS OF NEGLECT
We begin with a look at the East End of the time and explore the teeming streets and crime-ridden thoroughfares that provided the backdrop against which the saga of the Ripper murders was played out.
Our Nemesis of Neglect video paints a vivid picture of everyday life in the Victorian East End, showing how many people came to see Jack the Ripper as a monster that had been spawned by the horrific social conditions in the East End of London.
THE FIRST JACK THE RIPPER MURDER
Having looked at how the murders impacted on Victorian society, Richard Jones then takes you on a step by step tour through the life and death of the woman who is widely considered to have been the first victim of Jack the Ripper – Mary Anne Nichols.
Having traced her life up to August 1888, Richard then takes you on a step by step journey through the events of the morning of August 31st, 1888, disclosing how Mary had earlier been ejected from a Common Lodging House in Thrawl Street because she lacked the fourpence to pay for a bed for the night.
We visit the site where her body was discovered by two carters, Charles Cross and Robert Paul, who were on their way to work at 3.40am, and we reveal how the murder site was so dark that they didn’t actually notice that he throat had been cut; a discovery that was, in fact made, by the local beat officer, PC Neil, when he patrolled along Buck’s Row, shortly after Cross and Paul had left the scene.
We then go on to look at the flurry of activity as local medic, Dr. Ralph Llewellyn was sent for and who, having pronounced life extinct, ordered the removal of the body to the local mortuary.
It was here that Inspector Spratling made the horrific discovery that the Buck’s Row victim had been savagely eviscerated, a fact that had been missed by everybody up until that point.
EARLIER WHITECHAPEL MURDERS
However, before the murder of Mary Nichols occurred, two earlier murders, those of Emma Smith, murdered in April, 1888, and Martha Tabram, murdered on the 7th of August 1888, had taken place in the district.
Our next documentary looks at the events leading up to the murder of Emma Smith, and discusses the reason why she was not, and is not, held to have been a victim of the killer who would later become known as Jack the Ripper.
THE MURDER OF MARTHA TABRAM
The next victim was Martha Tabram, who was murdered on August 7th, 1888, and so our next documentary takes a look her life and death, and assesses the case as to whether or not she was a victim of Jack the Ripper.
THE POLICE INVESTIGATION – A VICTORIAN CSI
Of course, the Jack the Ripper murders were the subject of a huge police investigation that involved detectives and officers from two police forces – the Metropolitan Police and the City of London Police.
The Victorian police are often subjected to a barrage of criticism for the way in which they investigated the Whitechapel murders, much of which is undeserved.
Our documentary on the methods employed by the police to hunt for the Whitechapel murderer takes an in depth and extremely detailed look at the way in which the investigation into the crimes was handled.
THE LEATHER APRON SCARE
With the police involved in a desperate race against time to catch the killer before he committed another murder, their investigation suddenly yielded a promising suspect in the form of a man who the neighbourhood’s prostitutes had nicknamed “Leather Apron” and who, so the local streetwalkers claimed, was trying to extort money from them.
However, this promising lead soon presented its own problems when, thanks to frenzied press speculation, the gentile population began to believe that this sinister character was a member of the Jewish immigrant community and a wave of anti-Semitism swept the district, confronting the police with the prospect of widespread violence against the area’s Jewish community.
THE VICTIMS OF JACK THE RIPPER
Our video documentary on the “Victims of Jack the Ripper”, takes the viewer through the stories of each of the so-called “canonical five” victims – Mary Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes and Mary Kelly.
As well as visiting the sites of their murders, we also pay a visit to the cemeteries in which the victims are buried where we view their memorials.
THE MURDER OF ANNIE CHAPMAN
With the area on the brink of rioting, on the 8th September, 1888 the killer struck again, murdering Annie Chapman in the backyard of number 29 Hanbury Street.
Richard Jones pays a visit to Hanbury Street to describe the sequence of events leading up to, and in the aftermath of, the murder.
When news got out that the police had found a freshly washed leather apron close to the body, several newspapers, ignoring the fact that the garment actually belonged to one of the residents of number 29 Hanbury Street, gave the find so much coverage that the area erupted into anti-Semitic unrest and innocent Jews were beaten and barracked in the streets of Whitechapel and Spitalfields.
In a desperate attempt to contain the racial unrest, extra police officers were flooded into the neighbourhood to restore order.
Then, at the inquest into the death of Annie Chapman, the local Divisional Police Surgeon, Dr. George Bagster Phillips, raised the chilling possibility that, in his opinion, the killer demonstrated signs of anatomical knowledge, thus raising the chilling possibility that Jack the Ripper may have been a doctor.
MOTIVES FOR THE CRIMES
By mid-September 1888, the Metropolitan Police were forming the opinion that the murderer was probably a lunatic and that he had received some form of medical training.
To that end they began looking into medical students who had recently been released from asylums.
But, as with so many of their lines of enquiry, this too yielded nothing.
Unfortunately, the police began to find themselves subjected to a barrage of criticism from the press and public alike as it became apparent that their investigation was going nowhere, and so we pose the question, “was that criticism justified?”
Then, towards the end of September, 1888, a police officer arrested a man by the name of Charles Ludwig who seemed to perfectly fit the bill for having carried out the murders.
Our next documentary tells the startling story of how he was arrested in possession of a large knife, and reveals how the police genuinely believed that they had got their man, until, that is, circumstances proved otherwise.
THE ONLY CLUE
On the night of the double murder – the 30th of September, 1888, when Elizabeth Stride was murdered in Berner Street and Catherine Eddowes was murdered in Mitre Square – the ripper fled Mitre Square and headed into the immediate East End Streets.
For our next documentary, we follow on his trail to pay a visit to a doorway in Goulston Street where a bloodstained piece of Catherine Eddowes apron was found, an hour or so after her murder, by beat officer PC Alfred Long.
Since there was no doubt that this had come from the body of the Mitre Square victim, the police realised that this was an important geographic clue as it indicated the direction the murderer had fled in when he left Mitre Square, and thus re-enforced a belief that was rapidly gaining credence with several of the detectives, that the Whitechapel Murderer was someone who lived in the heart of the area where the murders were occurring.
It also enables us to answer a question that is raised time and time again on our Jack the Ripper Walking Tour, “wouldn’t he have been drenched in blood?”
Our documentary answers this by explaining that, since the evidence suggests that he asphyxiated his victims before commencing the repellent mutilations, then there would, most likely, be little blood spatter to actually drench him in his victims blood, whilst Richard Jones points out that, because of the stains on the apron, we can ascertain the extent to which he would have been bloodstained, as he had, evidently, used the garment to wipe away the visible, and incriminating, bloodstains from his person.
Having considered this important clue, part three of Unmasking Jack the Ripper ends on a cliffhanger as we reveal how a sinister message was found scrawled in chalk above the piece of apron.
Our video gives consideration as to whether or not the message was written by the killer as he fled from Mitre Square and points out that there were contradictory statements about the message, with some police officers stating that the writing looked faded as though it had been there for some time and so wasn’t, therefore, chalked by Jack the Ripper.
Irrespective of who was responsible, the finding of what was anti-Semitic graffiti so close to the apron caused unease amongst the ranks of the Metropolitan Police, who feared that if the gentile population – who, within a few hours would be arriving in the street in great numbers for the Petticoat Lane Market – saw the message, it might well lead to further outbreaks of racial unrest in the district.
The City of London Police, on the other hand, saw it as an important clue and wanted to photograph the chalked message.
The two forces were still arguing over what should be done when, at 5.30am, Sir Charles Warren, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, arrived at the scene and ordered the graffito’s immediate erasure.
We discusses the fact that Warren’s controversial decision has been the cause of endless speculation amongst conspiracy theorists and ponders his reasons for wanting the message rubbed out before a photograph of it could be taken.
THE “DEAR BOSS” LETTER
Richard Jones then explains how, as dawn broke on 30th September 1888, both the City of London Police and the Metropolitan Police had been humiliated by the Whitechapel Murderer who, having killed two victims right under their noses had then managed to escape into the very streets in which the police were out in force trying to hunt him down.
Press criticism of the “shameful shortcomings” of the detectives increased dramatically and, desperate for a breakthrough, the police made public a letter that, in the last week of September, had been sent to the Central News Office in the City of London.
The letter’s author claimed to be the Whitechapel Murderer, and his missive taunted the police for their inability to catch him.
But, it was the letter’s signature that caught the public imagination and helped turn the East End murders into an international phenomenon – for it was signed “Jack the Ripper.”
As it transpired making the letter public proved to be a huge mistake, for the resultant publicity encouraged imitators to reach for their pens and, very soon, the police investigation was all but overwhelmed by a veritable tsunami of bogus “Jack the Ripper” correspondence, all of which had to be investigated and, if possible, the authors traced.
We consider the “Dear Boss” missive and ponder the all-important question of whether it did actually come from the killer before both agreeing that, like almost all the imitators it spurned, it too was bogus and was probably the work of a journalist.
THE BLOODHOUNDS AND JACK THE RIPPER
Throughout September, 1888, there had been many suggestions in the newspapers that the police should use bloodhounds in an endeavour to catch the perpetrator of the Whitechapel Atrocities.
The Metropolitan Police Commissioners, Sir Charles Warren, was, in fact, sceptical that bloodhounds would be of any use in the hunt for the murderer.
However, he did agree to hold trials in a London park, and he was sufficiently impressed by the results to consider using the dogs in the event of another murder.
The press, however, on learning that Sir Charles Warren had acted as the hunted man in the trials, began inventing all manner of stories to make fun of him.
So, in the next Jack the Ripper documentary in the series, we look at how the bloodhounds were introduced into the case and reveal why it was that, ultimately, they were not used.
THE “FROM HELL” LETTER
In mid-October a letter was sent to Mr. George Lusk, the head of the Mile End Vigilance Committee, which is still the subject of intense debate.
This letter was addressed “From Hell” and, rather sickeningly, it contained a portion of human kidney which, according to the letter’s writer, he had taken from the body of Catherine Eddowes.
In this instalment we consider the two opposing views as to whether or not the kidney that was sent to George Lusk was part of the one that had been removed from Catherine Eddowes body in Mitre Square.
We conclude that, despite the fact that the surviving evidence is sparse, the general consensus amongst experts today is that it wasn’t in any way related to the murder of Catherine Eddowes.
JACK THE RIPPER SUSPECTS
WHAT THE POLICE THOUGHT
It is intriguing that almost every one of the senior detectives who worked on the Jack the Ripper case appears to have had a favoured suspect.
Indeed, the two highest ranking of the officers with direct responsibility for the investigation, Dr Robert Anderson and Chief Inspector Donald Sutherland Swanson, appear to have not only had a favoured suspect, but they also to have favoured the same suspect.
In his memoirs, The Lighter Side of My Official Life, Sir Robert Anderson, as he had become by the early 1900’s, revealed that the police did in fact catch the killer and that the one person who ever gained a clear view of the face of the murderer unhesitatingly identified their suspect the instance he was confronted with him but refused to testify against him.
Unfortunately, although Anderson stated that their suspect was a low born Polish Jew living in the heart of the area, he stopped short at naming him.
Anderson presented a copy of his memoir to his old ripper hunting colleague Chief Inspector Swanson, and his copy re-surfaced again in 1988.
In the margin of the book, Swanson, it transpired, had done what Anderson hadn’t done and had gone so far as to name the suspect as “Kosminski”.
In our final video documentary, we explain that the only Kosminski who fits the bill was a man named Aaron Kosminski, who was sent to Colney Hatch asylum in 1891.
Of course, that leaves the question, was this man, Aaron Kosminski, Jack the Ripper.
Richard Jones points out that, Anderson and Swanson, as the two highest ranking officers with direct involvement in the case, would have been in the position of knowing the evidence against all the suspects, and if they thought the evidence against Kosminski was stronger than that against any other suspect, then Kosminski has to be a leading contender for the mantle of Jack the Ripper.
However, as with so many aspects of the Jack the Ripper case, certainty is never certain, and the Prime Suspect documentary questions whether Aron was, in fact, the correct Kosminski.
WE MIGHT YET LEARN HIS IDENTITY
As already mentioned, since Unmasking Jack the Ripper was made in 2004, a lot more information has come to light about many different aspects of the case, and the new series of documentaries provide the viewer with the latest facts.
As to whether Jack the Ripper has actually been “unmasked”, the honest answer to that question has to be a resounding no.
But, as Richard Jones has often observed, with so many determined researchers now trying to hunt him down [Jack the Ripper not Richard!], there may well be a time when a breakthrough is achieved and the World finally gets to know the identity of history’s most famous, and elusive, serial killer.