Harrowing truths behind Jack the Ripper legend that are even MORE chilling – how he chose victims to brutal kill methods | The Sun

IT’S the unsolved crime that has fascinated the nation for over a century, spawned numerous films and even a macabre industry of ‘murder tours' in London’s Whitechapel. 

But while theories and myths about Jack the Ripper abound, we’re no closer to identifying his true identity.

Now a new Channel 5 documentary – Jack The Ripper: 5 Victims -which airs tonight, turns the spotlight on the five unfortunate victims of the serial killer, all murdered and mutilated in a sickening three month crime spree between August and November 1888.

Forensic psychologist Kerry Daynes joins forces with historian Ruth Goodman and former homicide detective Howard Groves to delve into the lives of Mary Ann Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes and Mary Jane Kelly.

“What intrigued me about this was the chance to look at it with fresh eyes and try to separate fact from fiction,” Kerry tells The Sun. 

“I want to change the way people think about this case, turn it on its head.

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“Because of the importance that we place on the perpetrator, his victims have been hidden by history, so trying to bring their stories to the fore was one of the most fascinating parts of the documentary.”

Here, together with Kerry’s help, we take a fresh look at the evidence and bust some of the myths surrounding the UK’s most infamous serial killer and his tragic victims.

Jack the Ripper DIDN’T target prostitutes 

The most common myth, circulated at the time and irreparably attached to the Ripper legend, is that his five victims were sex workers.

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The fact that all five were murdered in the early hours of the morning – four on the streets of London and one at home – fed into the narrative that they were touting for business when they met their killer.

But delving into the lives of the women, Ruth, Kerry and Howard found that just one – last victim Mary Jane Kelly – was known to sell sex.

In fact, the majority of the Ripper’s victims were wives, mothers and widows – not the young unmarried women many imagine.

“The biggest myth is that Jack the Ripper was specifically targeting sex workers,” says Kerry. 

“The press at the time labelled them loose women, fallen women and somehow not worthy victims.

“But when you delve into the lives of the women who were murdered, who have largely been forgotten by history, there's only evidence to suggest that one was without a doubt, a prostitute.

“The one thing they had in common was desperate, grinding poverty.

when you delve into the lives of the women who were murdered, who have largely been forgotten by history, there's only evidence to suggest that one was without a doubt, a prostitute

“What really spoke to me was the traumatic, impoverished lives these women were leading, how desperate those times were and what they were doing to survive.” 

Mary Ann Nichols – whose throat was slit on August 31, 1888 – was the daughter of a blacksmith and was well-educated, rare for girls at the time.

Married at 18, she had been recommended for housing on Peabody Estate – reserved for “respectable, hard-working” families – but after the marriage fell apart she fell into heavy drinking and found herself in the workhouse.   

Victim number two, Annie Chapman, was found with her throat cut and her body horribly mutilated in Hanborough Street, just eight days after Mary Ann’s murder and half a mile away.

The daughter of a soldier, she was also educated and had become a well-respected servant, marrying a fellow domestic and having three children.

But she too fell into alcoholism and, when her husband died of cirrhosis of the liver, found herself homeless – choosing the bottle over her family’s offers of shelter.


Although Elizabeth Stride, the third victim, had been treated as a prostitute in her native Sweden after falling pregnant at 18, Ruth Goodman explains that may not have been true.

At the time, even if she had been raped, she would have been dubbed a prostitute because she was unmarried and carrying a child.

Shockingly she was stripped naked, examined for venereal disease and then incarcerated and treated for syphilis with internal “caustic flushes”. Her baby was stillborn and she never got pregnant again, probably as a result of the treatment.

Elizabeth scraped a living as a small-time conwoman, telling “stories” of how her husband and children died when the Princess Alice sank in the Thames, killing over 600 passengers, in 1878.  

Catherine Eddowes, whose body was found just 45 minutes after that of Elizabeth in the early hours of September 30, was one of 10 kids orphaned at a young age and lived a life of grinding poverty. 

Wives and mothers

Mary Ann, 43, and Annie, 47, both had children with their former husbands. 

Catherine was 44 and had three children – Annie, George, and a third whose name is unknown.

She was married to a travelling salesman and had spent the night in a police cell accused of drunkenness. 

Released at 1am, she told police she was afraid to go home because she expected a “thrashing” from her husband. 

Mary Jane, who at 24 was the youngest, was married at 16 but widowed two years later, when her husband was killed.

She began working in a high class brothel but had a series of long-term relationships with clients – one of whom, Joseph Barnett, was still seeing her when she died.

“By really delving into the desperate state of these five women's lives, we hopefully gave them back a dignity that they hadn't previously had,” Kerry says. 

“People live desperate lives, and I think we need to understand that victims don't don't play a role in their own victimhood.”

Brutal mutilation and stolen kidney

As the Ripper’s crimes stacked up, the brutality of his violence escalated.

The documentary examines the post-mortem reports of all five women and the shocking crime scene photo final victim Mary Jane, butchered in her own bed.

Mary Ann’s autopsy described how her throat was cut before being stabbed in the abdomen and the genitals.

Thumb marks found on her face suggested she was attacked from behind, according to Kerry.

“This would explain how the killer got away from the scene without being spotted because he’s not covered in blood,” she says. 

He was somebody that wanted to destroy and desecrate women's bodies and take parts of those bodies away with him as trophies

Annie Chapman's throat had been cut through to her backbone and she had been disembowelled, with a section of the flesh from her stomach placed on her left shoulder and her small intestines removed and placed above her right shoulder.

Although Elizabeth was not mutilated, the killer struck again less than an hour later, suggesting he might have been disturbed, and Catherine, victim four, had her kidney cut out.

His final act of mutilation, on Mary Jane, was thought to have lasted up to four hours, as the killer remained undisturbed in her bedroom. 

The 24-year-old’s face had her cheeks, eyebrows, nose and ears partially removed and several cuts all over her face. Her throat was slit and both breasts removed and she was partly disembowelled. 

Ripper was 'uneducated working man' 

Commentators at the time referred to the perpetrator as “the surgeon” because of his mutilation of the bodies, but Kerry is not convinced he had a medical background. 

“I couldn't see any evidence to suggest the so-called Jack the Ripper was medically trained,” says Kerry. 

“He was somebody that wanted to destroy and desecrate women's bodies and take parts of those bodies away with him as trophies.”

You often see Jack the Ripper depicted as this shadow in a top hat and cape which is absolutely ridiculous… I think he was an uneducated working class man

She also dismissed claims he was a well-to-do gentleman.

“You often see Jack the Ripper depicted as this shadow in a top hat and cape which is absolutely ridiculous,” she says. 

“There's no way on earth that he would have dressed like that in the slums of Victorian London – he would have stuck out like a sore thumb.

“I think he was an uneducated working class man.”

Victims 'stalked or known to killer'

While there was an element of randomness in the killings, Kerry believes at least some of the victims were stalked. There was some evidence to suggest the killer even put his victims at ease. 

On the night she died, Annie Chapman was heard talking to a man who asked “will you?” and she replied “yes.” 

Elizabeth Stride was found in the foetal position with her hand closed around a tissue paper containing nuts, something she would have dropped had she been surprised, suggesting she may have been asleep when he struck. 

“We now know that 94 per cent of femicides are preceded by some form of stalking,” Kerry says. 

Jack the Ripper is not a criminal genius, one step ahead of the law… He would have been caught very quickly these days

“He stuck to a half mile radius in Whitechapel because he knew the backstreets and alleys well enough to stay hidden. 

“I imagine that he was wandering around looking for a woman, any woman, and he would have followed them and stalked them until they were somewhere he was able to kill them. 

“A few were homeless, sleeping on the street or looking for somewhere to go, and it’s possible in some cases he waited for them to be asleep before he attacked them. 

“We think he also lay in wait for Mary Jane Kelly, letting himself into her home through a broken window when she was asleep, so there was an element of stalking there.”

No criminal genius

Despite evading the long arm of the law and taunting police with letters to vigilantes and the press, Jack the Ripper was no criminal genius in Kerry’s eyes,

“We looked at all the newspaper clippings, the evidence that still exists and the way police tried to solve the case, against what would happen today,” she says. 

“It becomes very clear that Jack the Ripper is not a criminal genius, one step ahead of the law.

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"He would have been caught very quickly these days and wouldn't have become the pop culture icon he is now.” 

Jack the Ripper: 5 Victims airs tonight on Channel 5.

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