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The Real Jack the Ripper

Cutting Through the Fog of the  Ripper Myth

Richard JonesThe Real JTR is honoured to have Richard Jones, Best Selling author, broadcaster, historian and all round Ripper authority, writing an exclusive introduction to the Autumn of Terror for this site. As well as all the above, Richard is also the man behind the best Ripper walking tour out there! And so if you want to walk in the killer’s footsteps give Richard's site a visit at

The Hunt for Jack the Ripper
by Richard Jones

The other night I watched an episode of “Criminal Minds” in which the team addressed a group of criminology students about a serial killer whom they had hunted for, I believe, a period of 20 years before eventually catching him.

Individual team members told the audience how their investigation had developed and how bits and pieces of evidence gradually came together to give them an idea of the type of suspect they were looking for – likely childhood traumas that had led that suspect to begin his crime spree and then on through his various murders to tracing him and bringing him to justice.

The wonders of a criminal investigation done for television: hunted, sorted and jailed in less than sixty minutes!

It set me wondering about what would happen if the detectives who handled the Jack the Ripper investigation - Abberline, Reid, Anderson, Swanson and, just because I hate leaving him out, Warren - were to be asked to undertake a similar lecture? What insights would they be able to give those students into the type of suspect they were looking for, and would the claim, that many officers who worked on the case made, that the killer’s identity was in fact known to them actually stand up to close scrutiny?

I honestly believe that it is safe to say that the hunt for Jack the Ripper is the longest running man hunt in criminal history. Indeed, it is safe to say that it is still going strong over 125 years after the crimes were committed!

Admittedly, the police themselves long ago gave up on the case and closed their investigation. But thousands of amateur sleuths have since been happy to pick up the gauntlet and run with it and, in so doing, have contributed an awful lot of useful information about the most famous murder spree in criminal history.

But what of the original investigation carried out by various members of the Metropolitan Police in 1888? How effective was it and, more importantly, is it possible that they missed vital clues and pieces of evidence that allowed Jack the Ripper to slip through the net and evade justice?

The first important point to make about the Victorian detectives is that they weren’t hunting Jack the Ripper, but were hunting the person responsible for a series of crimes that were officially known as the Whitechapel Murders.

As a result, the neat and tidy figure of the so-called “canonical” five victims was an unknown concept to the likes of Abberline and Reid. Nor did they have the luxury of the oft quoted time frame of August 31st 1888 to 9th November 1888. As far as they were concerned any murder, or even attack, that took place in the East End of London in the late 1880’s and the early 1890’s had the potential of being another atrocity by the Whitechapel Murderer.

So, as far as the police at the time were concerned, the first murder was that of Emma Smith, carried out in early April 1888. Now, Emma Smith almost certainly wasn’t a victim of the killer we now know as Jack the Ripper. Indeed, she survived the initial attack and was, therefore, able to reveal the fact that she had been attacked by a gang. However, her death, or, as it became, murder, is significant in several respects.

Firstly, she is the first name to appear on the generic Whitechapel Murders file that encompasses the canonical five (Mary Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes and Mary Kelly) as well as several murders that may, or may not, have been the work of the ripper.

Secondly, the fact she claimed to have been attacked by a gang most certainly influenced the early stages of the police investigation into the Jack the Ripper crimes, as the police evidently believed that the murders were gang related.

However, in May, June and July, 1888, the police probably paid little heed to the death of Emma Smith and had, no doubt, come to see it as one of the many violent crimes for which the area was infamous at the time.

But then, in early August, 1888, Martha Tabram was murdered in George Yard, one street away from the corner where Emma Smith had been attacked. The attack on poor Martha was as frenzied as it was savage, and multiple stab wounds peppered her upper body.

Although Martha’s death most certainly caused consternation in the area, the police were still of the opinion that a gang was responsible.

This belief was still held a few weeks later when, on August 31st, 1888, Mary Nichols was murdered in Buck’s Row and the Jack the Ripper crimes, as we now know them, got underway.

In the wake of the Mary Nichols Murder the belief that a gang was responsible began to waiver, not just amongst the police but amongst the local populace and the press at large also. This was the period when the police investigations amongst the local prostitutes yielded the likely sounding suspect “Leather Apron.”

Unfortunately, the Leather Apron scare backfired alarmingly in that press speculation that he was a member of the local immigrant community led to racial unrest in the area, and the police were forced to face the alarming prospect that there might well be anti-Jewish rioting in the vicinity.

As a consequence, they began substituting witness descriptions of suspects being “of Hebrew appearance” with the more generic “of foreign appearance.” This was the main reason why, all conspiracy theories aside, Sir Charles Warren, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, ordered the erasure of the Goulston Street graffito.

If there was a time when we can say that the actual investigation began in earnest, it would be in the wake of the murder of Annie Chapman on 8th September 1888.

This is the period when Inspector Frederick George Abberline was brought back to the area to head up the on the ground investigation and when Chief Inspector Swanson, at Scotland Yard, was put in overall charge of reading and assessing every bit of information that came in on the case. Thus, by mid-September 1888, the team was in place that would go to work on the mystery, and which would devote an enormous amount of time to trying to bring the perpetrator to justice.

Of course, at this time, one of the most important names in the entire murder spree was yet to make an appearance. In early October 1888, the police released a letter which had been sent to the head of a London News Agency in late September 1888. The letter, written in gloating terms, purported to come from the perpetrator of the recent East End murders and it taunted the police about their inability to catch him.

But, it also bore the chilling signature “Jack the Ripper”, a name that the press and public alike latched onto. As a result the Whitechapel Murders were turned into an international circus and the unknown miscreant responsible for them was suddenly elevated to the realm of legend.

Thus the hunt for “Jack the Ripper” effectively began in early October 1888 and it has, more or less, been going on ever since!
Based upon the FBI profile, take this site's Autumn of Terror tour (audio if desired). Let Jack tell you about himself, Whitechapel and, finally, his view on the canonical five murders!

The Reality of the Ripper

Jack the Ripper, the architect of the autumn of terror, 1888, in Whitechapel, East London; a faceless bogeyman that dozens of theorists have since tried to pin an identity to. Theories range from the futile to the fantastic, too few of them focussing on what we have learned from Jack’s modern-day counterparts.

This website’s aim is not to add yet another fanciful face to the ever-growing gallery of the 'not guilty', but it will hopefully sketch a helpful silhouette of the Whitechapel Murderer; a likely profile that Jack will fit in to. Modern experts know infinitely more now about the nature of such killers than the antiquated Victorian police ever could have – a knowledge that has stemmed, sadly, from the apparent abundance of serial killers we have nowadays.

With, admittedly, some very occasional discrepancies, these serial killers tend to fit a mould. You don’t have to be an expert to see this pattern evolve: just a little research into other notorious killers will reveal similar people from similar backgrounds committing similar crimes.

Jack the Ripper is not unique; he is not something special. He is just one of history's many maladjusted murderers. Unfortunately, however, he was one who was never caught. As  a consequence, until his real name and nature are known, his myth and legend will live on.

New Writing on the Wall:

New Killer Question Article Added:
Was Jack the Ripper a Lone Wolf?

New Book of the Month Added:
The Complete Jack The Ripper by Donald Rumbelow

New Killer Question Article Added:
Was Liz Stride a Ripper Victim?

New Documentary Added to the JTR Theatre Page:
Shadow of the Ripper

New Killer Question Article Added:
Why Doesn't Anyone Agree Upon Much When it Comes to Jack the Ripper?

Shop The Ripper Book of the Month:

The Complete Jack The Ripper By Donald Rumbelow

The first book I ever read on the case and, luckily for me, one of the very best! It has, of course, been revised several times since that early edition I fascinatedly flicked through, and yet this latest update still manages to keep its place as one of the essential Ripper reads. Donald Rumbelow, if you are new to the Whitechapel Murders, is one of the very best commentators on the case; he is level-headed, speaks a great deal of sense and doesn’t waste your time (or money) with dubious theories or biased nonsense; he tells it like it is – or was. This latest paperback is well worth the small investment if you’ve never encountered “The Don” before!

the real jack the ripper

It Begins...

Many of the sections below employ John Douglas’ FBI profile of the Ripper as their foundation. Profiling is not an exact science and I’m sure that even Douglas would agree that it’s unlikely that he’s one hundred percent correct with his outline of the killer. Nevertheless, I feel that if we are to ever unmask the Whitechapel fiend, it is better to know what kind of man we are looking for first, and I think Douglas’ profile is strong enough to get us close.

A profile’s aim is not to identify a culprit directly; it is a tool which helps to narrow down the field: it looks to identify a personality type rather than a person. Profiling’s merits have been called into question a number of times since its advent, but even if we only allow it a fifty percent hit rate, that’s got to be better than the big, fat zero we’ve managed to achieve by picking random suspects out of the air for the last 125 years!

With this in mind, proceed through the sections opposite and below and ask yourself: realistically, who would have fitted the profile? Using this method you will see many of the usual suspects' candidacies for being the real Jack the Ripper evaporate. But you will also find a tiny minority that fit rather well.


"Killer Questions" is a part of the site which deals with miscellaneous aspects of the Whitechapel Murders. Anybody is free to write a short article here on any facet of the case which they find interesting or intriguing. Click the button above to visit the archive or post a comment, or click here to see the latest Killer Questions.


The JTR Theatre has free documentaries, interviews and other films connected to the Ripper case. More will be added in due course. Click the button above to enter.


The three sections below focus on the man, his environment and, finally, the series of murders themselves – all surmised from the possible mind-set of the murderer and all worded in the first-person.  Of course, these autobiographical works are fictional. They are there simply to echo the opinions of various modern-day criminal profilers and ripperologists on what the Whitechapel Murderer would  have been like. 

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These sections relate more to the victims of the Whitechapel Murderer. They include a short biography of each of the 'canonical' five, their respective post-mortems, and a map showing the locations of the murder scenes. It should not be forgotten that these women had their lives taken by the fiend, and whether or not we question their lack of moral scruples, they certainly didn’t deserve such horrible demises.

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The suspects: is Jack amongst them? In these three sections you’ll find Douglas' FBI profile of Jack the Ripper (PDF); the compatibility with the profile of the suspects; and, finally, my own opinion. I will be adding more suspects over time and so it's worth checking back now and again to see how the new faces measure up against the FBI test. I will only be adding suspects where there is enough historical data available for them.

Click the relevant button to proceed...
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whitechapel post mortems suspects
autumn of terror map opinion

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The Latest 3 Killer Question Comments...

Was Jack the Ripper a Lone Wolf?

There have been a fair amount of gruesome serial-killing double acts over the years: the Mexican Gonzales sisters; Fred and Rose West; Ian Brady and Myra Hindley; Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka to name but a few! Is it possible then that Jack the Ripper had a partner in crime too?

There is plenty of speculation concerning a possible accomplice in the Ripper case – there has been since the beginning. The more plausible ideas, in my view, have the second member of the deadly duo acting as a lookout each time as Jack got on with his bloody work in the street. (Some would point to the Stride murder as evidence of this.) But when I say ‘more plausible’, don’t get me wrong – I don’t mean likely, I just mean more possible than two people taking it in turn to play doctor! Overall, I’m confident that Jack acted all by himself with no assistance and no accomplice – unless you include alcohol!

A very tight bond would be needed between any pair that set out on such a murderous venture: the examples I mentioned above involve either family or lovers. But, having said that, there have been examples of two people who just happen to meet up, and just happen to share the same sick fantasies – but these are much rarer. (The internet, however, may possibly be making this more common than it used to be!) Either way, a great faith has to be placed by each partner in the other – who would you trust with such a secret?

I am reminded at this point; I am ashamed to say, of the Michael Caine TV miniseries: Jack the Ripper. Let me make it clear that it’s 99 percent fiction (I believe they got the year right!), but I do still remember one line when the idea of a murderous partnership was raised: “Convince a little man that he’s serving some great cause…” It’s remotely possible, I guess, that a subservient man might have been made convinced that he was righteously helping the killer in cleaning up the streets, for example. Let me be clear, that’s very unlikely, but in serial-killing ‘teams’ there is often a dominant member and a submissive second.

Overall, I can’t see Jack confiding in anyone: I doubt that he even had anybody he could call a close friend, let alone being confident enough with them to one day sit them down and announce: “By the way…”. If the FBI profile is halfway correct, Jack, like many other similar serial killers, was not socially skilled and would have appeared shy and/or withdrawn. A beer or two may have loosened him up, but probably not to the extent of revealing his hobby to a close friend – if he even had one. In part, it is his probable longstanding alienation from society and his inability to form close bonds that contribute to the beginning of his reign of terror. And so, if this is correct, it doesn’t fit that he ever managed to obtain a trusty accomplice.

But let’s presume he did for a moment! What would his partner’s role be? Possibilities include: a lookout; a lamp-carrier; a bag carrier; a nurse; or a combination of the aforementioned. There is little doubt that any, or all, of these tasks would have been appreciated by the Ripper. But, as with many other lines of work, in Victorian serial-killing – you just can’t get the staff!

Was Liz Stride a Ripper Victim?

Ah, yes – that old chestnut! Was she Jack the Ripper’s first victim on the night/morning of the double event, September 30th, 1888, or was she a coincidental homicide? If she was the former then Jack got careless with her murder. This is, of course, possible with a killer who is growing in confidence and arrogance and who may also have been beginning to feel invincible. It is also possible that Jack was careless with every murder he committed and that he was just luckier on the other occasions. But in Stride’s case, if we presume she was a Ripper victim, there seems to be a strange total and utter disregard on Jack’s part for his surroundings and the potential witnesses within them. Also, it seems likely that with all the other murders that the killer was led by the lady to a secluded spot for the purposes of coupling, but on this occasion Jack changed his protocol, instantly attacking upon the initial meeting! Yes, but maybe he was losing control? But if that’s the case he quickly regains it in under an hour and seeks out another woman with what appears to be (If Joseph Lawende did indeed see him near Mitre Square) his former technique!

Okay, so what about the latter possibility: Stride was a coincidental homicide. What are the chances? Well, not so fantastically remote that it strains at credibility. Stride wasn’t mutilated after her throat had been cut. If we want to believe she was a Ripper victim a reason for this has to be offered, and the one usually tendered is that Jack was prevented from inflicting further damage due to the approach of Louis Deimshutz with his pony and cart. Of course, if we don’t want to believe she was a Ripper victim it’s much simpler: she wasn’t mutilated because she wasn’t a Ripper victim – full stop. To support this viewpoint, there’s one popular theory that her ex-boyfriend, Michael Kidney, who she had split up with just five days prior to her murder, killed her in a fit of vengeful rage. I suppose that’s possible – jilted lovers killing their ex’s is not exactly rare – but by simply slitting their throats? Maybe and maybe not.

Whether Liz was a Ripper victim or not I find hard to call: there are pros and cons for both viewpoints. Overall, I edge towards thinking that she wasn’t. On the face of it, however, that she was one of Jack’s fits together well: Israel Schwartz apparently sees the assault begin at 12:45 a.m. and runs away; Deimshutz appears on the scene just fifteen minutes later, causing the murderer to cease operations and flee (or hide and then flee); the murderer, enraged at the turn of events, then seeks out another victim to fulfil his sick and sordid whims; Catherine Eddowes suffers his wrath less than an hour later. Neat and Tidy! But then, on the other hand, you could argue that, on top of the changed method of attack that I mentioned earlier, Jack also seems very slow to get started on the mutilations to Stride – in fact, too slow to even begin! Fifteen minutes doesn’t sound like a long time, but in less than an hour he will not only slice Eddowes’ throat and mutilate her severely, but also remove her womb and a kidney in less than fifteen minutes! And so are we to believe that after Schwartz’s departure it took the killer most of a quarter of an hour to just finish the throat-cutting stage with Stride?

Something just doesn’t add up for me in the Stride case. I don’t think she was a victim of Jack the Ripper, but, having said that, I’m not overly fond of the coincidence theory either! I guess I don’t know. Do you?

Why Doesn’t Anybody Agree Upon Much When it comes to Jack the Ripper?

Simple answer: there’s not much to agree upon! It’s similar to asking: why don’t all religions and their various denominations agree on much? The lack of hard, historical facts, in either case, lead to a large diversity of opinion: if you can’t prove a theory wrong then it remains standing and joins the long, long list of possibilities!

In Ripperology, just as with religion, differences in opinion can lead to tensions, heated arguments and even hatred! An absolute and total faith in a Ripper theory can cause friction between one theorist and another with a contradictory, but equally adamant, point of view. Of course, I’m not suggesting that these differences are anything like being on the same scale as religious intolerance, but even so, things can and do get nasty sometimes.

Another factor that plays a part in “Ripper radicalism” is the commercial side of things. If one author publishes a book on some hare-brained theory of his about the Whitechapel Murderer, he will not, of course, take kindly to huge holes in it being pointed out by others which may potentially scupper some of his precious royalties! And so the business side of things – the Ripper industry – inspires yet more bickering, backbiting and bloody-mindedness! Isn’t the Ripper world fun?!

If you are anything like me, you probably just want the reality with none of the aforementioned fanaticism clouding the waters: the case is already opaque enough! Speculation and logical deduction are welcome on various aspects, especially when they fit in with one or more of the few hard facts in the story. But speculation, logical deduction and facts are hard to come by in the realm of Ripperology! There are, however, a few good books out there which do fit into this seemingly shrinking niche where sanity still prevails! “The Complete Jack the Ripper A-Z” by Paul Begg, Matin Fido and Keith Skinner, is a must read, along with Donald Rumbelow’s “The Complete Jack the Ripper”. (You can find both in the Shop the Ripper store on this site!) There are several other books too that are worth looking at – just make sure you read the reviews before you part with your hard-earned cash!

And so apart from a handful of books, where else can we go for sensible and sober thinking on Jack the Ripper? If you are a beginner then a good documentary film can help you to get a basic overview of the Whitechapel crimes – see the JTR Theatre page for some ideas – but if you are after more detail then the bigger forums are probably the best places to visit – in time you will eventually discover which posters are the more rational ones and who it’s worth paying attention to! The forums’ can be found via the Links page.

And that’s about it! It’s been over a century and a quarter since the Autumn of Terror, and Jack the Ripper still remains as elusive and divisive today as he did back in 1888!

Links to sites which are worth a visit...

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