Jack The Ripper and collection of evidence
In every online resource and library book I could find on Jack the Ripper (JTR), there was no description of how the evidence from the victims or the crime scene was actually collected. I think this is due in part that up to this time period there really was no preserving the crime scene or evidence like we have today. Using fingerprints and blood evidence came a few years later. The primary evidence gathering that was conducted for these murders were autopsies, taking statements from witnesses and surveying the crime scene for any weapons or obvious clues. There was other evidence collection done at the scene but was limited and I will mention it later on. JTR is “officially” linked to five murders over a four month time frame. There are others that occurred prior to his first and after his last that many believe he could have committed but I will focus on these five. They are Mary Ann Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes, and Mary Jane Kelly.
Mary Ann Nichols was murdered on Aug. 31, 1888. An autopsy was performed by Dr. Llewellyn. He concluded that five of her teeth we missing, there were multiple bruises on your jaw line and check bone area, an eight inch incision severed the large vessels in her neck, and deep incisions running across her abdomen. From these injuries, he believed the murderer to be left handed and caused by the same instrument (Evans, 2000). There was confusion on whether or not clothes were removed prior to the doctor arriving but I couldn’t clarify that. A search of the area was conducted by police constables and investigators. They looked for a “knife, marks of blood or anything suspicious” (Evans & Skinner, 2000. pg 41). Blood at the scene was compromised in today’s standards because the coroner and constables got it on their hands and ended up washing most of it away. The jury returned a verdict of “Wilful murder against some person or persons unknown” (Evans & Skinner, 2000. pg 48).
Annie Chapman was the second murder related to the same killer and was murdered on the 8th of Sept., 1888. It just so happened to be the day after the funeral of Mary Ann Nichols (Evans & Skinner, 2000). During the autopsy, Dr. George Bagster Phillips claimed that the killer could have used an instrument that he or any other medical man would use. He also noted that she had marks on her fingers that would have been made by rings. This is the victim where similar occurrences with later victims starts. There was a handkerchief around her throat and the killer cut organs out of the body (Barbee, 2006). Her arms were arranged a certain way, the way her intestines were located on her shoulder and how her legs were positioned were all noted and come back to us later on. The Dr. concluded that the killer had to have some knowledge or background of anatomical or pathological examinations (Evans & Skinner, 2001). The police began their investigation with the search of rooms corresponding to the street and statements from each person. They also made trips to pawnbrokers, jewelers, and dealers to find rings that may have belonged to Chapman. Once again, the jury returned a verdict of “Wilful murder against some person or persons unknown” (Evans & Skinner, 2000. pg 107).
The third victim, Elizabeth Stride and forth victim, Catherine Eddowes were killed on Sept. 30, 1888. They are usually referred to as “The Double Event” (Evans & Skinner, 2000. pg 178). Evidence was gathered and examined the same as the previous two. With Stride, multiple witnesses describe two men and a witness for Eddowes describes very similar resemblances to the same. The crime scene for Eddowes reveals a piece of apron that has blood and possible fecal matter on it. This was the first case were there was a reward offered for “the discovery and conviction of the murderer or murderers of the woman who was found butchered in Mitre-square” (Evans & Skinner, 2000. pg 195).
The fifth murder was of Mary Jane Kelly on 9 Nov., 1888. This was the only woman who was not killed and left on the streets. She was killed and dissected in her own room (Barbee, 2006). The placement of her entrails and the positioning of her arms and legs were the same as the other murders. The witness in this case, gives a very detailed description of a man similar to that of Strides witness.
The evidence in these five cases was collected by photographs, autopsies, vigorous interviews, detaining of suspects, and crime scene observation. With what I have gathered, I believe the police constables, investigators, and coroners did everything that they could possibly think of in order to try an solve these cases. If these murders were conducted with today’s technology, I believe the murderer could have been apprehended before he became a serial killer.
Today’s technology offers DNA collection and comparison, fingerprinting, trace evidence collection and comparison, writing comparison and even incision molding and comparison to name a few that would relate to these cases. Overall, I counted roughly thirty-five suspects that were questioned and detained in these cases. Comparing evidence from these suspects to the evidence collected at the scenes would have ruled them out or convicted one of them more scientifically then what was done. Letters that the alleged JTR wrote had blood stains and fingerprints on them. Patricia Cornwell used DNA comparison and believes she has found the real JTR and cracked the over century year old case (Dunn, 2002). Her book titled, “Portrait of a Killer”, claims Walter Sickert is the real JTR. I have not personally read this book as of today, but plan on it because it has peaked my interests.
Barbee, L.S. (2006). Casebook: Jack the Ripper. Retrieved April 15, 2007 from http://www.casebook.org/intro.html
Dunn, A. (2002). Patricia Cornwell vs. Jack the Ripper. Special to CNN. Retrieved April 15, 2007 from http://archives.cnn.com/2002/SHOWBIZ/books/12/03/cornwell.ripper/index.html
Evans, S.P. & Skinner K. (2000). The Ultimate Jack The Ripper Companion. New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers, Inc.
Saferstein, R. (2004). Criminalistics: An Introduction to Forensic Science. New Jersey: Pearson Education, Inc.