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Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Jack the Ripper: 130 years of the unsolved murders that shook London

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Jack the Ripper

From hell. Mr Lusk, Lord, I send you half of the kidney that I took from a woman and I have preserved for you. The other piece I fried and ate it, it was very nice. Maybe I'll send you the bloody knife that took it out if you just wait a little longer. Catch me when you can, Mr Lusk. There was once a letter with the seal of hell. As is, without literary flourishes. Its author wrote it in the darkest pit of the inferno and from there sent it to the house of its addressee: George Lusk, leader of the Vigilance Committee of Whitechapel, in London. The letter ended on Lusk's desk (along with the rest of the day's correspondence) on October 16, 1888. Among the pile of manuscripts, envelopes and police files that crowded the table of the chief of the Whitechapel neighborhood watch, the letter of hell stood out at a glance for several reasons. First, by the angles of his calligraphy, sharp as knife blades. Second, because it was accompanied by a small box. When he opened it, Lusk felt an icy tingle creep up his back. Under the wooden lid was a vial full of alcohol. Inside it floated half a human kidney, whitish and swollen. The author of the letter of hell was not the devil, although few people have been as close as he to embody it on this side of the Styx. Although writing the letter to Lusk preferred not to use his signature, in October 1888 the sender was already becoming a famous person in London. After having perpetrated four bloody murders, the tabloids were popularizing their nickname, a nickname that the neighbors of Whitechapel repeated in the streets between halting whispers: Jack the Ripper. The crimes of Whitechapel Between the summer and autumn of 1888 Jack spread terror in Whitechapel, a neighborhood located just over five kilometers from central London and that at the end of the 19th century (in the middle of the Victorian era) was far from being the modern district that it is today. . Crime, alcoholism, racism and prostitution intermingled in its streets. Russian, Polish and Irish immigrants were forced to live in squalid housing, immersed in poverty. With that backdrop Jack the Ripper committed his first murder (acknowledged, at least) on August 31, 1888. His victim was Mary Ann Nichols. The police found his corpse at dawn, in the present Durward street of Whitechapel. A pair of cuts cut through his throat and his abdomen was ripped with a slit and incisions. Whitechapel Crimes Map of 1894 in which are indicated, in red dots, the murders attributed to Jack the Ripper. (Wikipedia) During the following weeks there were at least three more murders. All had as victims women who engaged in prostitution. All brutal, sadistic and emaciated. On September 8 agents found the remains of Annie Chapman. Days later (at dawn on the 30th of the same month) they discovered two bodies, those of Elizabeth Stride and Catherine Eddowes. The first had only suffered a deep cut in the neck, which in turn led the investigators to think that the killer would have been surprised during the crime. With the second one it was primed. It is assumed that the fragment of kidney that received Lusk next to the letter of hell belonged to the unfortunate Catherine Eddowes. All the crimes attributed to Jack the Ripper occurred in the same year and within a radius of just 1.5 kilometers, to the astonishment of the police A little over a month later came the last of the five murders attributed in a general way to Jack the Ripper. The victim was Mary Jane Kelly. The agents discovered her on November 9 lying in her bed, in a house in Miller's Court. Except Stride's, the corpses were mutilated, disfigured, with cuts in the throat, belly and genital area. To the astonishment of Scotland Yard, that wave of crimes occurred within a radius of 1.5 kilometers. The police counted five cases attributable to the mysterious criminal named Jack the Ripper. Between 1888 and 1891 the press linked him to some more. Before Mary Nichols it was speculated on with the authorship of the aggressions to at least other two prostitutes in Whitechapel: Emma Elizabeth Smith, who survived the attack but died shortly afterwards as a result of the sequels, and Marta Tabram, stabbed viciously in the same neighborhood . Today they are not attributed to Jack because his executioners followed a different modus operandi. Whitechapel Whitechapel in 1905. (Wikipedia) Already at the end of the 19th century, some voices questioned whether the crimes linked to Jack had been perpetrated by a single person. Given the wave of cruel murders that ravaged the East End of London between April 1888 and February 1891 is often spoken of "the murders of Whitechapel." In total they left 11 victims, all women. Despite the efforts made by the police and the myriad of theories that have circulated to date, in 2018 marks the 130th anniversary of the murders without the identity of Jack the Ripper being ascertained. Thirteen decades of hypothesis leave only one ironic conclusion: Jack has created more murderers than corpses. If the number of identities that have been attributed to him is analyzed, his fateful trail of victims pales. Only at the end of the 19th century did UK police investigate about 300 suspects. More alleged murderers than victims The mixture of dread and frustration with which the residents of Whitechapel saw the lack of progress in the investigation led a group of neighbors to found a committee to patrol the neighborhood. The collective undertook its own investigations. Their leader was Lusk, the same one whom Jack challenged in his letter. Before ceasing his wave of crimes, it is believed that the Ripper sent another missive and a postcard to mock the case. As with the victims, however, it is difficult to clarify what writings are theirs (if any) among the tide of anonymity that the police received at that time. During the months in which he gave free rein to his murderous rage and even years later, police and press pointed out different suspects. Because of their skill with the knife, the researchers focused their attention on medical students and butchers, although it was also hypothesized that they could be an enlightened person. At one time or another, the list of suspects included Lewis Carroll, the painter Walter R. Sickter or Alberto VĂ­ctor, Duke of Clarence and Avondale and grandson of Queen Victoria herself. Surveillance Committee Vignette of The Illustrated London News of 1888 in which the Citizen Vigilance Committee instigated by Lusk watches a suspect in the street. In the endless list of suspects, a handful of names stand out. One of them is the Polish barber Aaron Kosminski, who when the brutal murders were perpetrated barely passed his twenties. Years after the crimes, in 1891, Kosminski would enter a psychiatric hospital for his "probable paranoid schizophrenia." In 2014 the writer Russell Edwards assured with great fanfare that he had obtained an irrefutable proof that Kosminski was Jack. According to the British author, in 2007 he had bought the shawl of one of the victims and from him he was able to extract a DNA sample. After comparing it with that of a descendant of the Polish barber, it obtained an overwhelming coincidence. Soon after, some researchers warned that serious errors had been made during the tests. Of Polish origin, as Kosminski, is another of the suspects: Severin Klosowski, who earned a dismal fame in the England of his time for poisoning his three wives and died by hanging in 1903. Another investigation claimed to have revealed the identity of Jack thanks to a crucial clue: a newspaper written between 1888 and 1889. In his pages James Maybrick, a cotton merchant from Liverpool, would confess to having killed five women in Whitechapel and another in Manchester and ends up unmasking himself as Jack the Ripper . James Maybrick James Maybrick, one of the always supposed murderers of Whitechapel. The paper was found more than 25 years ago by three employees of an electric company while they were remodeling an old property of Aigburth in which Maybrick would have lived. The workers handed it to a local antique dealer, Mike Barret. The book is however surrounded by controversy. Many question its authenticity. Only two years after editing himself Barret would recognize that it was a fake, although he would end up recanting his own words. Other voices agree that Barret would not have been able to make a counterfeit of that caliber, elaborated and full of details about the crimes. Perhaps one of the names that has sounded most strongly is that of Montague John Druitt, a young and influential lawyer. His family lost track of him after the murder of Mary Kelly, Jack's last "canonical" victim. A month later his corpse was found floating in an advanced state of decomposition in the waters of the Thames. Their names are added to many others, such as the swindler Michael Ostrog, Francis Tumblety, John Pizer (nicknamed "Leather Apron"), William Bury, Sir John Williams, surgeon friend of Queen Victoria, and many others. In the list there are even women (Elizabeth Williams and Mary Eleanor Pearcey) and even pointed to the collusion of Inspector Frederick Abberline, one of the agents who investigated the homicides. With more or less conviction, doubts loomed over them. In many cases based on recent theories or fictions. 130 years after the crimes of Whitechapel, however, it is not much more what is known today than at the end of the 19th century. There remain the victims, the myth, the suspicions ... But his identity remains that of a stark criminal who seems to write from hell. Other Assumption Montague John Druitt, another suspect. Around the unknown who held the knife that ended the lives of five prostitutes of Whitechappel between the summer and autumn of 1888 has created a whole universe. The list of books investigating the case grows year after year and the streets that served as the stage for the macabre murders are now a tourist attraction: a museum remembers the events in the East End of London and guided tours allow visitors to relive the environment of the City in the late nineteenth century with its Dickensian and sordid poverty environments. Thirteen decades later Jack the Ripper is a pile of unknowns, victims of flesh and bone ... And a gloomy business. Just a few weeks ago an auction house in Folkestone (England) awarded 25,000 euros one of the letters attributed to the murderer.

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