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Analysis of The Case of Jack The Ripper Through a Criminological Lens

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Jack the Ripper is arguably the most infamous serial killer the world has ever known. He terrorized the whole of London over 100 years ago in 1888, killing at least five women, mutilating their bodies in the process. Whoever Jack was, he was never caught nor identified, and has managed to elude the top criminal minds to this day. Though numerous theories have appeared throughout the years claiming to have finally cracked this case, we may truly never know Jack’s true identity. The purpose of this paper is to explore the various aspects of this case through a criminological lens. First, we will analyze each of the five confirmed victims of the Ripper, known as the Canonical Five, as well as those who are suspected as being victims at his hands as well. Next, we will create a criminal profile of Jack, and analyze the various elements of his life that may have given rise the prolific serial killer. With this information in mind, we will then create a suspect list, and identify what we think is the most likely identity of Jack the Ripper.


In any case of serial killing, victim selection is a very important and intimate aspect of a killer’s crime. Identifying common patterns between the different victims can prove to be useful in identifying and capturing the killer. If we want to better understand who Jack the Ripper was, we need to better understand his victims. In this case, there are five generally accepted victims of Jack the Ripper, who are known as “The Canonical Five”. The murders of these five women are at the center of the lore of Jack the Ripper in Whitechapel. We will highlight their similarities, and answer why they in particular were selected by Jack as his victims. In addition to these five, there are also several other women who, over the years, have been argued that they too were victims of the Ripper. We will analyze each of these victims, and based on their profile, determine if they were actual victims of the Ripper. Based on this information, we can make an educated guess as to how many victims total Jack the Ripper may have had during his reign of terror.

Mary Ann Nichols

Mary Ann Nichols, aged 44 at the time of her death on August 31, 1888, was described by Emily Hollard as “a very clean woman who always seemed to keep to herself”. It was also known that she was an alcoholic. For over 20 years, she was married to William Nichols, with whom she had 5 children. There were also many separations between the two during their marriage, and after their final separation in 1881, that is when Mary began engaging in prostitution. Upon discovering this, William discontinued support payments to her, which forced Mary to move from workhouse to workhouse, which she did for a few years. On the night of her murder in 1888, she was reported to be drunk and staggered. She was seen engaging in prostitution to earn her doss money for the lodging house she was staying at, Wilmott’s Lodging House. Around 3:40 A.M. the next morning, her body was discovered by a carman on Buck’s Row, who alerted the nearest police officer of his discovery. It was noted that there were incisions that ran along her jawline from ear to ear, which were so deep that her head was almost decapitated. There were also similar deep cuts made along the abdomen. These cuts had to have been made by a large, sharpened knife with a great amount of force.

Anne Chapman

Annie Chapman, who was 47 years old at the time of her death on September 8, 1888, was acknowledged to have a drinking problem, but was not considered to be an alcoholic. However, this may have been the reason for the separation from her husband John Chapman in 1884 or 1885. After John died, she engaged in prostitution, and also had a relationship with Edward Stanley, a pensioner. A few days before her death, she was involved in a physical altercation with a rival, Eliza Cooper, on September 1. Days after this occurred, Anne felt noticeably ill. On the night of her murder on September 7, she was seen in and out of her lodging house at Crossingham on a couple of occasions, still feeling noticeably ill. She leaves the house again at around 1:30 to earn doss money. She was seen by Elizabeth Long with a man at around 5:30 on Hanbury St., shortly followed by a scream, and the sound of something falling against a fence. This was only a short distance from Mary Ann Nichol’s murder. When her body was found shortly afterward, it was discovered that her throat was deeply cut, as well as her abdomen, which was disemboweled. An instrument similar to the one in Mary Ann Nichol’s murder was used. It was Annie’s murder which suggested that this killer had to have some sort of anatomical knowledge, such as a medical expert or a slaughter man.

Elizabeth Stride

Elizabeth Stride, aged 44 at the time of her death on September 30, 1888, was described as quiet, but would be willing to do a good turn for anyone. However, she was frequently in trouble with the law for her drunkenness and disorderly conduct. Although she did engage in prostitution, which she was registered as in 1865, she also earned money from sowing and charring, as well as payments from Michael Kidney, whom she lived with at times before her death. In 1869 she married John Stride, with whom she had children with. By the time John died in 1884 the marriage had completely fallen apart. When she went to live with Michael Kidney in 1885, she was absent many times because she would go out to drink. On the night of her death on September 30, she was seen leaving Bricklayer’s Arms Public House with a man whom she was hugging and kissing. This man was described as dressed respectively. At around 12:45 that evening, Israel Schwartz, a local in the area, was turning onto Berner Street when he saw a man speaking to a woman, presumed to be Elizabeth. He witnessed him throwing her to the ground, and the woman screaming. A second man was seen on the other side of the street, and upon seeing him, the man who threw Elizabeth to the ground yelled “Lipski”, an insult directed towards Jews (YouTube). Schwartz ran when the second man began to head in his direction. Elizabeth’s body was discovered soon after, still warm. While her throat was still cut, there were no mutilations performed, suggesting that the Ripper was scared off before he could do so.

Catherine Eddowes

Catherine Eddowes, aged 46 at the time of her death on September 30, 1888, was seen as someone who was very intelligent and well of, but also possessed a fierce temper. When she was 21 she became involved with a pensioner named Thomas Conway, with whom she had 3 children. The couple split in 1881. While living at Cooney’s lodging house she met John Kelly while at the markets. According to the deputy at the lodging house, Catherine was a “jolly woman” who did not drink often, though she did drink to excess on occasion. She was also not in the habit of walking the streets. While John and Elizabeth were together they struggled to earn money, and on September 29, Elizabeth tells John that she is going to borrow money from her daughter. Later that night she is found drunk and taken into police custody, only to be soon released. However, upon leaving, she heads in the opposite direction of the lodging house, supposedly back towards the direction where she was found drunk. She was last seen at 1:35 A.M. with a man, around 30 years old with a fair complexion, with a mustache and medium build. This is about the same description of the man seen with Elizabeth Stride. Soon after, her body was discovered. Her throat was deeply cut, about 6-7 inches, and her body and face were mutilated. Her intestines were placed about her body, and various other parts were taken or moved.

Mary Jane Kelly

Mary Jane Kelly, the youngest of the victims, was 25 at the time of her death on November 9, 1888. According to those who knew her, she was sober, although she could get noisy when drunk. Other than that she was a quiet woman. She was also found to be attractive, and well-liked by others. Everything known about her is from Joseph Barnett, who she lived with prior to her death. At 16 she married, and possibly had a child from this. Her husband was killed three years later, after which she moved to Cardiff and became a prostitute. She became very ill, and spent a lot of the infirmary while there. In 1884 she moved to London, working in a high-class brothel. She also accompanied someone to Paris while there as well, but decided to return. In 1886, Mary meets Joseph Barnett while living in Cooley’s Lodging House. The couple were known for causing trouble while drunk, and in 1888, Barnett leaves Mary upon losing his job, although he would still visit her frequently. On the night of November 8, she was seen drinking in the Britannia with a respectable looking man, and she appeared to be drunk. They return to her room in Miller’s Court, where she stays until around 2:00 A.M., when she leaves again to find money. She returned with another man about an hour later. The next morning, her mutilated body was discovered in her room by police. Her organs were disemboweled, her breasts were removed, and her face and arms were severely cut and mutilated. Her neck was also cut down to the bone.

Other Possible Jack the Ripper Victims

Before and after the murders of these five women, there are also other murdered women in and around Whitechapel who, over the years, have also been argued to be victims of Jack the Ripper. Though the murders themselves vary in location, method of killing, and the state of the body upon being discovered, they have been argued by theorists over the years whether they are genuine murders at the hands of the Ripper. There are also several women who may have possibly been attack by Jack, but survived. We will go through some of these cases and determine whether we should suspect them of being Ripper victims.

As I mentioned, several women were attacked by an assailant, but survived. Anne Millwood, Annie Farmer, and Ada Wilson were possible victims of the Ripper before the mutilations. These women suffered stab wounds, but survived, and the attacker(s) escaped. Generally, they are regarded as victims of a robbery gone wrong. I believe that if these were victims of the Ripper, based on how savagely and swiftly the Canonical Five were attacked, they would be dead. Also, the Ripper was not known to steal any of the victims’ personal belongings, so I would have to dismiss these women of being Ripper victims. Another woman, Emma Smith, was attacked by 4 youths, and was raped, beaten and robbed. It is believed that the attackers were members of the one the Whitechapel gangs that were known to rob and attack prostitutes.

There were also several instances where the body parts of a woman were discovered. In the cases of the Whitehall Mystery and the missing Elizabeth Jackson, body parts were discovered in the River Thames. And in the case of the Pinchin Street Murder, in which the victim was possibly Lydia Hart, a torso was discovered under a railway arch. While there were reasons to suspect the Whitehall and Pinchin Street murders were connected, there was no evidence at the time for police to suggest that they were connected to Jack the Ripper. I believe that he would have purposely mutilated the victim to live out his sexual fantasies, as well as to make a statement to those who found the bodies. Thus, he would not have gone to the length of disposing of the bodies, as was the case with the Canonical Five. In addition, I don’t believe that Jack would have gone from mutilation of the corpse to complete dismemberment, and hiding of the various body parts.

There also other murder victims where, although there are some similarities between them and the Ripper victims, it is still unclear whether their deaths are the work of Jack. Rose Mylett, a known prostitute in the Whitechapel area, was murdered roughly one month after the Mary Jane Kelly killing. However, the throat was not cut, and it was determined that her death was due to strangulation with the faint mark of a rope being found on her neck. Being so close to the previous murder, I would believe Jack would have continued to cut and mutilate his victims, and thus, I do not believe that she was a Ripper victim.

Another victim, Carrie Brown, was murdered in the East River Hotel in Manhattan in New York in 1891, years after the last known Jack the Ripper case. Her body was found mutilated, and she appeared to be strangled as well. A foreign man named Ameer Ben Ali was arrested and charged for her death, but released years later. For the simple facts that this took place long after the Ripper murders, as well as in another country, and in addition, a story emerged that a Danish farm boy may have had a connection to the killings, I think we can disprove this being a Ripper killing.

One murder victim in particular, Frances Coles, shares some striking similarities with the victims of Jack the Ripper. By the time of her death on February 13, 1891, she had been involved in prostitution for several years. She had also met James Sadler, a merchant, a few days before her death, and the two spend much time together. On the night before her murder, Sadler was supposedly robbed, and he and Frances got into an argument, with Sadler claiming that she did not help him (Casebook). Sadler would be involved in three more brawls that evening. Frances went out soliciting later that evening, and was met by another prostitute, Ellen Calana, who as assaulted by a violent man. Frances goes with this man, against the advice of Ellen. Frances’s body was found the next morning, and Sadler was charged with her murder, but eventually cleared. Her throat was cut, but there were no signs of mutilation. Also because of the fact that this occurred over two years since the last Ripper murder, I do not believe that he would wait this long to strike again, although I would not be surprised if it were discovered that she indeed was.

However, there are a couple of victims whom I believe could be victims of Jack the Ripper based on the similarities their lives and deaths share with the confirmed Ripper victims. The first is Martha Tabram, who was 38 years old at the time of her death on August 7,1888. She was a heavy drinker, and was known for regularly staying out late, which were the reasons why her husband Henry Tabram left her. On the night before her death, she went soliciting with another prostitute, Mary Ann Connolly, and the two drank with two other guards. Eventually they each split into couples, with Martha disappearing with the guard she was with into George Yard, one of the more dangerous areas of Whitechapel. Her body was found early the next morning with 39 stab wounds, with focus on the breasts, abdomen, and throat, consistent with the other Ripper victims. While many of the wounds were believed to have been caused by a small knife, some of the stabs were thought to be caused by a longer and stronger blade (Jones). Because of the savagery of the murder, and the focus on certain areas of the body, in addition to being before the Ripper murders, I believe that Martha was an early victim of Jack the Ripper.

Another likely victim of the Ripper in my opinion is Alice Mackenzie, who was murdered on July 16, 1889, a little under a year since the last confirmed Ripper victim. While we know little about her early life, she was known for her smoking and drinking habits, which earned her the nickname “clay pipe”. On the night of her death she was seen drunk when she returned to the lodging house she was staying at, and in addition, she had not paid her rent. Later in the evening she was seen walking rather quickly towards Whitechapel, where her body would be found early the next morning. The wounds she suffered are certainly consistent with the other Ripper victims, with focus on the throat, abdomen, and breast areas. It was also noticed that these wounds appear to be from a left-handed killer, while the Ripper was right-handed, and that the wounds did not appear to be deep enough either. However, I still believe that Alice was a victim of the Ripper because of the consistencies of how she was killed. Perhaps there was a struggle which forced Jack to use his left hand, resulting in some of the wounds appearing to be unlike those of his other victims.

Based on the available evidence that we have on the Ripper: his murder victims, crime scene evidence, and witness testimony, we can create a detailed psychological and behavioral profile of him. While this may not be an accurate depiction, we can gain an understanding about what his life may have been like before and during the murders, what led him to commit these crimes, and any traumas or mental illnesses he may have suffered from. These elements will help us gain insight into possible identifying who this character may have been.

Initial Thoughts of Jack the Ripper

Without going into detail about the evidence we have available, there are some initial thoughts that can be made about who Jack the Ripper was. Because of the close proximities of the murders to each other, we can probably infer that he is a local to the Whitechapel area, and would have to possess knowledge of the area. This would be especially useful in knowing where to find his victims, and where to commit his murders without being caught. Also, because he would remove the sexual organs of his victims, we can probably guess that he had strong sexual desires, maybe that stem back from a trauma that occurred during his childhood. Also, because his victims were prostitutes, he more than likely engaged in the services. With the mutilations he performed on this victims, Jack may have been greatly skilled with his knife. It has been theorized that this may be tied with this occupation, one that requires fine handwork with a sharpened blade. He also may possess some anatomical knowledge based on his ability to remove specific organs from this victims, which again may tie into his occupation.

Behavioral and Psychological Profile

Because his victims are female, and more specifically the area of his victims which he targeted was the abdominal area, we can infer that the Ripper is probably male. If his victims were male, then this may suggest a homosexual killer, as female lust killers are generally very rare, much more so during this time period. Looks-wise, the offender probably wants to fit into the area he focuses his killings in, he doesn’t want to look out of the ordinary. However, he wants to suggest that he has money, primarily so that he doesn’t need to initiate contact with his victims (FBI)

Focusing now on his early life, he probably comes from a family where his father may have been absent during his childhood, and his mother the more domineering of his parents. This would have resulted in his lack of having a proper role model and receiving care, and him becoming emotionally detached from society. His pent up anger may have been expressed during his youth with setting fires and torturing small animals, which is something we see commonly in serial killers during childhood. This would have developed into a fantasy of exerting power violently over women specifically (FBI). He would try to live out these fantasies in whatever occupation he had, such as a butcher or medical assistant. Because the killings were done on the weekends, we can suggest he worked Monday-Friday.

Jack would have perceived a poor self-image of himself. This may include a paranoid thinking that he was always being followed, for which he would always carry a knife (FBI). He may also have some kind of mental illness, or perhaps a physical handicap or impediment.

Moving now into his behaviors before and after his murders, we can see that Jack would be drinking in one of the local taverns and pubs. This would be to attract possible victims, although he would not kill each prostitute he encountered, perhaps because the area would not be secure enough. He would know when and where to kill his victims. After his killings, he would return to an area where he would clean himself and remove his clothing. And because of the notoriety of this case, he would not purposely place himself into the police investigation or provide false information. He would believe his actions to be justified in the sense that he was removing “garbage” from society (FBI).

With this detailed profile of Jack the Ripper in mind, we can now create a suspect list. As the case has grown, so too has the number of potential suspects over the years, with the number now reaching into the hundreds. And while numerous theories have been put forth, none have been truly conclusive in discovering his identity. Some believe that he was a doctor, or a man of high-class. Others think he was a commoner who was a local from the Whitechapel area. And while many of the suspects were added to the list long after the conclusion of the police investigation, some have never been even considered during the investigation, or have only some sort of remote connection to the case, such as Prince Albert Edward Victor or Lewis Carrol.

Aaron Kosminski

One of the more popular suspects in this investigation is one Aaron Kosminski, a Polish Jew who resided in Whitechapel. According to Senior Officer Melville Macnaghten, “this man became insane… He had a strong hatred of the prostitute class and had strong homicidal tendencies” (Jones). In addition to Macnaghten, Sir Robert Anderson, another senior officer, also listed Kosminski as a prime suspect in his memoir. One of the leading reasons for his accusation was a possible witness to one of his attacks, Israel Schwartz. Schwartz may have seen the face of the Ripper during his attack on Elizabeth Stride. Now who was this Aaron Kosminski? He emigrated to London in the 1880s with his family, minus his father, and worked as a hairdresser during the time of the Whitechapel murders. During the 1890s, he began to display signs of mental illness, and in 1891, he was certified as insane and placed into Middlesex County Lunatic Asylum at Colney Hatch.

Charles Cross

One of the more intriguing suspects whose name has been brought up was the man who first discovered Mary Ann Nichols Body, carman Charles Cross. While that was the name he gave investigators, his real name found in records was Charles Lechmer. According to Cross, on the night of the murder, he was passing Buck’s Row when he saw something on the other side of the street, and walking towards it, discovered it was a woman. He was discovered by the second man Robert Paul, who came over to investigate the body. They left the body and saw an officer, whom they alerted about the body. Those in favor of him as a suspect will argue that Cross was interrupted by Paul in the act of the murder, and tried to cover it up as being shocked upon seeing the body. It was discovered that the route that Cross takes regularly takes him by three other Ripper murder sites: Annie Chapman, Catherine Eddowes, and Mary Jane Kelly. In addition, his mother’s house is located near where Elizabeth Stride was found.

Thomas Cutbush

Cutbush is another recent name that was added as a Ripper suspect. At the time of the murders he was declared insane, and was known as disturbed and potentially violent. He was known for his outbursts when he was sent to Lambeth Infirmary in 1891. When he attempted to stab two women, he was sent to Broadmoor Hospital until his death. It was claimed that he caught venereal disease from his indulgence in prostitutes, which may have led him to kill prostitutes, according to The Sun newspaper in February 1894. While he was not suicidal, he was a danger to others, and during his admission, numerous accounts of violent outbursts are mentioned. During his childhood, he studied medical books, and in some reports, he had blood stained clothing.

Prime Suspect

My prime suspect in the case of Jack the Ripper is Aaron Kosminski. I believe that he matches the profile that we have created of the killer to the best extent of any of the suspects. He was known to have strong violent tendencies, and in addition, was suffering from a mental illness, which could have been played out in violent acts, perhaps even in killing. Also, his father was absent from his life when he immigrated to Britain at a young age, however it is not known whether he did not immigrate with them, or he had died prior. In either case, this would have not afforded him the opportunity to have a proper father figure in his life. For a time being, he had the occupation as a barber, for which the fine hand skills would have matched with how the mutilations and cuttings were performed on the victims. We also know that he was positively identified by Israel Schwartz, who was a witness to the attack on Elizabeth Stride, and in addition, was the prime suspect of two senior investigators at the time: Sir Robert Anderson and Melville Macnaghten.

I also think there are certain facts about Kosminski’s case that dismisses the other potential suspects in this case. For one, we know that Kosminski was an immigrant to London, and was indeed in the area when the murders occurred. Some of the suspects, such as Michael Ostrog, John Pizer, James Sadler, and Montigue John Druitt, had no connection to the Whitechapel area at the time of the murders, or were known to be elsewhere when the murders occurred, giving them a dismissive alibi (Whitechapel). We also know the modus operandi for the murders, that is how the murders occurred. Suspects such as George Chapman and Dr. Thomas Neill Cream, used poison to commit their murders, which rules them out, because I do not believe that a killer can vary in their mode of killing to that degree, from poisoning to mutilating their victims.


This is a case that has continued to perplex some of the best minds in criminology for over 100 years, and to this day, we are still no closer to solving one of the world’s greatest criminal mysteries. While many “Ripperologists” over the years have claimed to have found the last piece of the puzzle that can finally close the case for good, there is still much controversy within the Ripper community. Jack’s motives, his victim selection, and most importantly his identity, have all been hotly debated by criminal experts. The truth is, we may never truly know who Jack the Ripper was, or why he committed these atrocious crimes so long ago. We can only infer who we think he was with the limited evidence that has survived since the killings. This paper is merely an educated guess based on the information available, and the conclusions reached are only one person’s opinion on the identity of one of the world’s most notorious serial killers. 

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