How did he become known to the public?
Jack the Ripper was a serial killer in London in the 1880s, who was never caught, and is still a criminal topic today, almost 120 years later.
In the period August to November 1888 the killer known as Leather Apron, and later Jack the Ripper (sometimes also the Whitechapel Murderer), murdered five prostitutes in London's East End. The horrible work of The Ripper consisted of strangling the victim to death before he cut their throats and mutilated their bodies. On some of them he even removed organs and parts of their body.
The victims were five unfortunate women who all worked on the streets as prostitutes. The first murder took place on Friday 31st August 1888. Mary Ann Nicholls («Polly») was found slain in Bucks Row. Her throat was cut from ear to ear, and her abdomen was slit.
Only a week later, on the 8th September, a Saturday, the Ripper struck again. This time, Annie Chapman was the unlucky one who ended her life in Jack's arms. She was found in the backyard of a property in Hanbury Street, her face and tongue swollen from what presumably had been choking. Her head was nearly ripped off, the Ripper had left two incisions on her neck. Her guts were lifted out of her body and placed over her shoulder, and, like the first occurence, Annie's abdomen was ravaged. But this time her female organs were removed and missing.
By the end of the month, when the inhabitants of Whitechapel had began to hope that the madman had withdrawn, they were proven wrong, very wrong. In the evening hours of the 29th September 45-year-old Elizabeth Stride was last seen talking to a man, and as another person arrived in the area with a horse and wagon, she was discovered with her throat slit, bruises on her shoulder, which showed that she assumably had been held down to the ground as the Ripper cut her throat. None of the other distinguishing Ripper traits were to be seen on her, most probably because he had been interrrupted by the horse wagon.
But the Ripper wasn't satisfied with this; in the evening of the same day he lurked about in the dark streets and Catherine Eddows met her brutal end. She was the most dreadful looking Ripper victim found so far, her throat slit like the others, her intestines had been ripped out and laid all over her body. Her face was mutilated, the eyelids were cut, the tip of her nose was gone, and her cheeks torn. The autopsy later showed her womb missing. The same night a piece of her bloody leather apron was found by a wall decorated with a sentence in chalk: «The Juwes Are The Men Who Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing». Because this might cause trouble for the Jews in Whitechapel - who were already in the picture as being suspected for the muders - the writing was cleaned off before the press could photograph it. After Eddows' death the police received one of several letters, but this one is clearly the most terrifying. It was called «From Hell» and, besides containing many threatening words, half a kidney, which the sender claimed belonged to Catherine Eddows, and that the other half was fried and eaten by the killer himself. After this, the prostitutes of London were warned and told to keep off the streets or at least walk in pairs to protect themselves.
A whole month went by without any more happenings. But Friday the 9th November was when the last of the five murders took place. 25 years old Mary Jane Kelly had been killed in her own room that she rented from a lodging house. Her body was a mess when she was found, many bodyparts removed and misplaced. Her breasts were removed, her abdomen sliced open, almost every part of her body had suffered the cut of the killer's knife. She had assumably been murdered while she was asleep.
The investigators were left wondering, Jack the Ripper always managed to escape from them. No one then understood how he could do it, and no-one today does either. The Metropolitan Police formed a psychological analysis of Jack in 1888, where they wrote that he had probably been abused as a child, and was either suffering from erotic or homicidal mania. After several years of searching for the culprit, the case was closed in 1892.
There have been many suspects in the Ripper case, but there was insufficient evidence to convict any of those charged. Even members of the British royal family were among the suspects. Here is a selection of the suspects:
James Maybrick, who has alledgedly written a diary describing the murders in detail. This diary was published as late as in 1993, but experts argue with each other on whether it's authentic or not. The diary was originally discovered by Michael Barret, and he later admitted that he forged the diary documents.
Montague John Druitt was a graduate from Winchester and New College in Oxford and the son of a well known surgeon. Several members of the Druitt family suffered from mental illnesses, and when Montague was found floating on the River Thames in December 1888, the conclusion was that he had committed suicide because he suspected the illness to attack him as well. One of the inspectors, Inspector Macnaughten, suspected Druitt to be the murderer because his death was so near the Whitechapel murders and he had little doubt that Druitt's family suspected Montague as well. Other than that, the evidence was almost nonexistent, but some people think Macnaughten had more information about this person than he wanted to admit.
Prince Albert Victor was the grandchild of Queen Victoria, and is one of the more interesting suspects. He was said to have had a child with a catholic girl, which was unacceptable at the time, especially since he was of royal blood. The government decided that this story was too much of a risk, and sent the girl to a mental hospital. She had confided in five prostitutes who had all been murdered afterwards.
Sir William Gull was Queen Victoria's doctor, and one theory says that he murdered the prostitutes as a part of a gruesome medical project. Another theory says that he killed them to cover a murder committed by Prince Albert Victor.
Walter Sickert was a painter who liked to paint dark and violent pictures of women. He is one of the newest suspects, and Patricia Cornwell, writer of many criminal novels, is sure she has enough evidence to point him out as Jack the Ripper. Sickert is also assumed to have been fascinated by death and mutilation. His paintings are believed by some to describe the Ripper murders. She has compared the DNA of the letters that the Ripper sent to the police and the DNA of Sickert and found that they match in several ways. Drawings in the letters are also similar to the ones drawn by Walter Sickert. Of course, this alone dows not show that the painter is the killer, but Cornwell thinks it is 99 % sure that she is right.
Why is Jack the Ripper so notorious?
It is nearly 120 years since the murders took place, and still we are fascinated by the Ripper. He was not the first serial killer, and he is not the worst in history, so what is it that makes him so interesting? It is very likely that the fascination comes from the fact that they never found out who he was, and probably never will. Jack the Ripper was the first killer to receive so much publicity all over the world. There are also the many suspects, some of whom haven't even become suspects until our time!
Many people want to solve this case, both professionals and amateurs. As mentioned earlier, writer Patricia Cornwell has spent millions of dollars to do research on this case. The case is surrounded by so many myths and we don't know which ones are true and which ones are not. The press at the time was presumably responsible for making many of the stories about the Ripper. The brutal way of killing his victims and not even trying to hide them from the public eye is enough to give shivers down one's spine and it is horrifying to think of it all as a true happening.
In the recent years more and more evidence has been recovered and the case has remained as special as it was back then. The murders are of the most provocative in the world and lead to debate between experts about suspects and whether the case will be solved.