The true story of Jack the Ripper

According to the Mail on Sunday, a 126-year-old mystery would be solved: the true identity of Jack the Ripper would be established. It would be a Polish Jewish immigrant named Aaron Kosminski.

If the promise of an identification seems to me personally perfectly improbable, remains that this umpteenth episode of the hunt for Jack is the perfect opportunity to return to the history of the very archetype of the serial killer . Watch out, not for the faint-hearted.

 1888, London

Welcome to East London in 1888, the heart of the Victorian era – a time of great and mighty industry, the time of Jules Verne and triumphant science. London is an immense city, the most populous in the world, traversed by the smoke from factory chimneys and the vapors of machinery. Conan Doyle has just created a hero with a bright future, a certain Sherlock Holmes, reflecting a time that believed in the power of methods of deduction and the wildest scientific progress. The London Underground, the Underground, has already been a reality for nearly fifteen years. That’s it for the frame.

No Jack without immediately thinking of a specific district: Whitechapel. Holy shit, Whitechapel, in 1888. A kind of urban hell, populated by 900,000 souls – poor souls. A district where the poorest shops follow slums, between a few slaughterhouses from which the smell of blood and excrement of panicked animals comes out. No sewers, no gutters, all garbage is dumped on the street. In summer, the heat makes the atmosphere unbearable, laden with grease, soot and the smell of tanneries and rot. The populace – many immigrants, Irish, Jews from Central Europe – survived there at the rate of day jobs, in misery. One out of two children dies there before the age of 5. Rapines, fights and thefts are part of everyday life. We kill ourselves for two pence, for one look too many. It is also the district of prostitution: 62 brothels, 1,200 regular boarders, without counting the even less fortunate women: they are sold outside, regularly or not, summer and winter. Many are beaten by their pimps, alcoholics and affected by syphilis or skin diseases brought by vermin and fleas.

On a rainy August night

On August 31, 1888, at four o’clock in the morning, a workman, Charles Cross, fell in the street of Buck’s Row on a collapsed woman, her skirts rolled up. So far, no wonder, but this woman didn’t just get drunk. Nor did she freeze to death as often happens in winter. The man calls an agent – ​​who can only confirm the death of Mary Ann Nichols, 42, a notorious prostitute. As for the cause of death, it’s not too difficult: the unfortunate woman had her throat slit – almost decapitated, in fact. His hands are cold but his arms still warm. The murder took place shortly before, in pouring rain which washed away the blood and fingerprints.

The body is taken to the morgue where doctors discover there is worse to see than the large throat wound – much worse, in fact. They find that the victim didn’t die from the throat cut, she was actually strangled – and honestly, the better. His tongue is lacerated. Her open stomach. Her genitals suffered furious, violent, powerful blows from a very sharp blade. MA Nichols is the first of the five proven victims of a murderer who will become in the collective imagination the very incarnation of the serial killer.

September 14, rebelote. Annie Chapman is found in a yard. The savagery has gone up a notch. Its head is almost separated from the body. The assassin, who took pieces of his victim, left with it. The vagina, uterus and two-thirds of the bladder are missing. He also placed the intestines of the deceased on his shoulders. The craziest? The murder took place at 6 a.m. – at dawn, when dozens of passers-by are already in the streets. The assassin was crazy enough or bold enough to kill in broad daylight, at the door of a building where 17 people live – and taking his time . Besides, witnesses saw a man walking away: tall, a hunting hat, a long dark coat. A silhouette was born, imprinted for a long time in the collective imagination.

On September 30, it was Elisabeth Stride’s turn to meet Jack. She’s lucky, dare we say it: he just has time to cut her throat before being interrupted. In her still warm hand, Elisabeth still squeezes a small packet of cashews. The same night, Kate Conway is much, much less lucky than this woman killed quickly: Jack had time, this time.

Kate, once again, is almost decapitated. His nose and one ear are cut. She has a V mark all over her face. A kidney and the uterus are missing. His stomach and intestines rest on his shoulders. After investigation, the police will reconstruct the timing: Jack did all this in… fifteen minutes, at most. In a neighborhood full of cops.

But this is still nothing compared to the 5th and last victim, Mary “Ginger” Kelly, killed on November 9, 1888, at her home. She is the youngest of the victims, barely 25 years old. A tall red-haired young woman, nice to everyone, according to reports. Out of sight, Jack took his time. The crime scene is unbearable, even for the doctors and investigators, some of whom will be voluntarily transferred to the depths of the English countryside following this story.

The victim is dismembered, his arms separated from the body. The outer surface of the thighs and belly were torn off. Breasts were cut off, intestines removed and literally thrown all over the bed. The uterus, kidneys and a breast are placed under the victim’s head. The second breast, under her left foot. Liver and viscera at his feet. Jack has put more pieces of flesh on a small table. The heart is missing.

Who is Jack?

So much for the actual murders. Now the deal. If Jack marked the memories to such an extent when his… track record, let’s say, is far below that of certain modern serial killers, it is for a simple reason: he will knowingly use the mass media of the time: the newspapers. He writes to them.

He even writes to them far too often for the letters to be all from him, moreover. Some are fanciful, but others are real, according to investigators. And one of them, written in red (ink, don’t worry) is signed with a little nickname: Jack The Ripper, the ripper. The police will publish the letter, with the idea that someone can recognize the handwriting. Others will follow. The most terrifying begins with the words “  From  Hell ”   . She arrived on October 16, 1888.

With a kidney.

No one knows if it was the one Kate Conway was missing, impossible to establish with the means of 1888. But it is indeed a human kidney, accompanied by the following text (mistakes not transcribed):

” From hell,

Sir, I am sending you half of the kidney I took from a woman, preserved for you. The other piece I fried and ate it was very good. I might send you the bloody knife that removed it if you wait a little longer. Catch me when you can sir. Jack.”

Investigation not possible

Media pressure, difficult investigation in a difficult neighborhood: Scotland Yard gets lost, especially as the anxiety grows over the murders.

In Whitechapel, the culprits are asked: the Jews of the neighborhood are the obvious victims, while the streets empty out at night. Why the Jews? Because after the 4th murder, we found near a fountain, on a wall, the following inscription which will not help.

Several poor guys from the area, guilty of being Jews, end up in the hospital, after coming close to being lynched. So as not to add to it and provoke a pogrom, the police chief immediately had the inscription, drawn in chalk, erased, without having a photograph taken of it. Surreal today, the decision removes an essential clue and makes any comparison with the writing of the letters sent to the police and the press impossible.

Investigations are carried out in confusion, under constant pressure. Mistakes multiply. Testimonies flow and contradict each other. The only element of certainty: Jack knows about anatomy. He knows a LOT about it. He has good tools. He works fast. Which means that the investigation takes a turn: there are few doctors among the poor of Whitechapel. It’s a senior job. It does not take more for other rumors to start: the murderer is a rich man, a Victorian aristo, one of those who sometimes come to slum in the slums. White cabbage on that side, explored with discretion by the investigators.

Don’t look: nobody knows today like yesterday who did it, why the murders stopped suddenly, nor especially why Jack killed, and why in this way. The recent discovery of the DNA of one of the suspects of the time on the shawl of one of the victims only proves that the man slept with this woman – a prostitute. The “evidence” would not last two minutes in front of a jury.

The only positive outlet to this sinister story, Queen Victoria will push a real rant and launch an urban planning program that will make Whitechapel happy. The appearance of a scientific police worthy of the name, it will wait a bit: the first lab will open in… 1930.

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