5 (or More?) of Jack the Ripper’s Victims

Jack the Ripper gets attention galore as perhaps the world’s most famous unidentified murderer. But what about the victims he left behind?

Apr 29, 2024By Kassandre Dwyer, M.Ed History

jack the ripper victims


One of the most famous serial killers of all time, Jack the Ripper, terrorized the Whitechapel District in London’s East End in the late 1800s. He was never identified, and the case was never solved, though a litany of suspects have been identified. Since Jack’s identity was never ascertained, it is impossible to know for sure how many victims he had. However, law enforcement officials have created a list of probable Ripper suspects based on modus operandi and victimology. Who were the women who fell prey to this mysterious killer, and what led them to become associated with history’s most notorious murderer?


1. Early Victims?

jack ripper victims whitechapel alley
A Whitechapel alleyway today. Source: Lisa Haseldine / MyLondon


While experts are in agreement that there are definitely five women who are the “canonical” victims of Jack the Ripper, there are some murders that came later that some detectives believe are likely to be Ripper victims as well. In addition, forensic professionals believe it is highly unlikely that someone would be able to start killing so effectively (and get away with it so efficiently) as Jack the Ripper did with the canonical five; they think he’d had practice before. So, who were the Ripper’s potential first victims?


illustration victorian prostitutes
Prostitution was a common profession in Whitechapel and other areas of urban Victorian England. Source: The London Economic.


Whitechapel was a notoriously high crime area. It was not unusual for crimes, even murder, to occur on a regular basis. There were about 1,200 prostitutes working in Whitechapel in 1888, several gangs operating in the area, several drinking establishments, overcrowded housing, and issues with policing.


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The murders of the Canonical Five occurred in the autumn of 1888, with some experts positing that similar murders occurring earlier that year might be attributed to the Ripper. One such death is that of Annie Millwood, who didn’t actually die from her attack but from natural causes after being attacked. Ms. Millwood was admitted to the Whitechapel Workhouse Infirmary with stab wounds to her legs and abdomen on February 25, 1888. She stated that she had been attacked by a man she didn’t know who had stabbed her with a knife. The 38-year-old widow later fell and died that evening, but after an inquest and autopsy, the death was attributed to natural causes.


It has been suggested by some that the location of the attack, along with the area of the body targeted, makes Millwood a likely Ripper case, while others argue there is limited proof that the attack even happened and that the injuries may have even been self-inflicted.


jack ripper victims whitechapel citizens
Nineteenth-century Whitechapel citizenry. Source: Old Spitalfields Market


Another suspected victim was Martha Tabram, who was found on a first-floor landing of a Whitechapel building in August of 1888. Martha was a local prostitute who had been seen about town the evening before drinking with another working girl. The two had met a pair of men, allegedly soldiers, and had gone their separate ways with them.


Nothing else was heard from Martha, and her body was found the next day. She had been stabbed in the throat and abdomen in a rather frenzied attack. Ripper experts argue that this is unlike the Canonical Five offender, who was more precise in his methods. Those who argue for Tabram as a Ripper victim state that this could have been a learning curve for the murderer and that he targeted her neck and abdomen, just like the Ripper did in his other victims. Some also propose that this murder helped the Ripper learn to minimize the forensic evidence left at future crime scenes. He most certainly would have been covered in blood after this crime, which led him to first asphyxiate future victims and therefore minimize blood spatter.


2. Mary Nichols

jack ripper victims police news
The Police News of September 8, 1888 depicting Mary Ann Nichols. Source: European Writers Tour


Mary Ann Nichols was the first of the Canonical Five and therefore considered by some scholars to be the first Jack the Ripper victim. Nichols was a married mother of six when her husband left her to begin an affair with a neighbor. Alone and destitute, Mary turned to alcohol, which only worsened her problems.


Eventually, she found herself frequenting the East End and turned to prostitution to pay for a bed in a lodging house. She was last seen on August 31, 1888 around 2:30 AM, when an acquaintance spotted her drunk and walking at the corner of Osborn Street and Whitechapel Road. Just over an hour later, two men, Charles Cross and Robert Paul,  were walking along a road called Buck’s Row when they encountered Mary’s body lying on the footpath. Her throat was cut, and she was sprawled in her own blood.


When her body was transported to the local mortuary and her clothes removed, it was revealed that there were numerous deep incisions to her abdomen, so brutal that her intestines were threatening to escape. The heinous nature of this attack set it apart from the usual set of Whitechapel crimes and got the attention of law enforcement.


3. Annie Chapman

jack ripper victims annie chapman
A retouched image of Annie Chapman clipped from her wedding photo. Source: Foller


Annie Chapman lived a relatively comfortable life with her husband John in Windsor. They had three children; however, their oldest, Emily Ruth, died of meningitis, and their son John Alfred was “a cripple” who was sent to a convalescent home to live. With these losses and other troubles, including alcoholism on both of their parts, Annie and John separated in 1884 or 1885. John would continue to support his ex-wife until his death at the end of 1886. She then started selling flowers and crochet work to get by, but eventually turned to prostitution to make a living and fund her alcoholism.


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A memorial sign to Annie Chapman in Manor Park Cemetery. Her actual grave has been buried over. Source: Jack the Ripper 1888


Chapman was killed early in the morning of September 8th, 1888. She was seen multiple times by different people throughout the night of the 7th-8th, for the last time at 5:30 AM, speaking to a man. Her body was discovered just before 6:00. At the coroner’s inquest, her body was described as “terribly mutilated,” with injuries consistent with a surgical instrument.


The doctor stated that Chapman was not a healthy woman but that her medical issues had not contributed to her death. She did not appear to have been drunk at the time of her death. Her throat was cut quite severely, and the abdomen laid open entirely. Several of her organs had been lifted from the cavity and placed on the upper portion of the body, but the uterus and its appendages had been removed and could not be located. The coroner felt that it would take a trained surgeon such as himself about 15 minutes to perform the injuries described and someone not trained in these practices over an hour. This led to the first supposition that Jack the Ripper may have ties to the medical field.


4. Elizabeth Stride

jack ripper victims elizabeth stride
Elizabeth Stride in life (left) and death (right). Source: VPics


Swedish by birth, Elizabeth “Long Liz ” Stride (née Gustafdotter) moved to London in 1866. She had previously worked as a prostitute in her home country, but in London, she married a man named John Stride and opened a coffee shop. The business failed, and her husband died in 1884. After the death of her husband, she lived in poverty and had trouble with alcohol. Liz was arrested several times for drunk and disorderly conduct. She took up with a man named Michael Kidney, with whom she had a “stormy” relationship and whose relationship was on and off for several years.


Stride was killed on September 30, 1888. Her throat was cut, but her abdomen was not mutilated as the previous victims had been. Some believe that this means that the offender was interrupted in his actions.


5. Catherine Eddowes

jack ripper victims catherine eddowes
Catherine Eddowes in life (left) and her mortuary photo on the right. Source: Spiderman Animated Wikia


Perhaps because he was interrupted in his murder of Elizabeth Stride, the Ripper would take a second victim on the night of September 30th. Catherine Eddowes had actually been released from jail at the approximate time that Liz Stride was being murdered. Eddowes had been taken into custody after a display of public drunkenness but was released around 1 AM when the officer on duty determined she had sobered up enough to do so.


victim mitre square
The Illustrated Police News. Source: ThoughtCo


Catherine would be killed by a cut to the throat in Mitre Square, less than ten minutes walking distance from the police station. Three men spotted Catherine in Mitre Square with a man, and one of the passersby got a good look at her companion. He was able to give the police what is considered to be a description of the man who is highly likely to be Jack the Ripper: about 30 years of age, about 5′ 9”, medium build, fair, with “the appearance of a sailor.”


jack ripper victims eddowes shawl
Catherine Eddowes’ shawl was auctioned in 2007 and then DNA tested in 2011. The DNA matched a suspect, but experts feel this is inconclusive proof given Eddowes’ profession and the lack of proper evidence handling. Source: Russell Edwards photo via ArtNet


Other clues to Catherine’s killer were left behind. A piece of her apron, bloodstained, was cut and found in a doorway, where above, anti-Semitic graffiti had been scrawled. A shawl belonging to Eddowes was also found at the scene, stained with blood and semen, though the DNA provided by these biological clues would not be useful until decades later. Catherine’s murder was exceptionally heinous, as she was not only eviscerated but cut on her face as well.


6. Mary Kelly

jack ripper victims mary kelly
Mary Kelly was the 5th and most brutally killed victim. Source: All That’s Interesting


Shocking the public and police alike, the murder of Mary Kelly would top even that of Catherine Eddowes in brutality. The entire month of October would pass without any murderous events, and Whitechapel breathed a sigh of relief, many believing that Jack’s reign of terror had come to an end. However, on November 9th, the Ripper returned and took his crimes indoors for the first time on record, killing Mary Kelly in her room. Blood saturated the bed and floor beneath her. She was completely eviscerated, and her organs were placed around her body. Her breasts were sliced off, her arms cut all over, and her face slashed multiple times. Her neck was cut to the vertebrae.


Little was known about Mary’s life. Most of what is recorded about her history was hearsay from an off-and-on boyfriend named Joseph Barnett, and he got his information from Mary herself. Some of the information conflicts and is believed to be embellished or even fabricated. However, she was believed to have originally been from Ireland. She was about 25 years old and had been living in London for about four years, working in a brothel and as a maid. She was last spotted at about 3:00 that morning, accompanied by a man. Approximately an hour later, two women heard the faint cry of “Oh murder!” from their beds in neighboring buildings but thought nothing of it due to the high crime rate in Whitechapel.


7. The Ripper Returns?

more mysterious murders
London newspapers wondered if the Ripper had returned. Source: Jack the Ripper Tour


Just as with potential earlier victims, there is some doubt as to whether Jack the Ripper had any more victims after the Canonical Five. However, murder in Whitechapel did not cease after the death of Mary Kelly, and law enforcement and the citizens of London could not help but wonder if he was still out there. The day after Mary Kelly’s burial, a woman named Annie Farmer was attacked by a client who had engaged her for sex, and her throat was lightly cut. However, her injuries were superficial, and the blade blunt, very dissimilar to the injuries left by the Ripper. The police failed to take Annie’s claim that she had been attacked by the Ripper seriously and did not investigate, though she never would recant her story.


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Mary Evans and her murderer. Source: National Geographic


Prostitute Alice McKenzie was murdered eight months after the last canonical victim, in July 1889. She had a zig-zag wound from her chest to her abdomen, and some speculated that the Ripper had returned. The new police commissioner, who was not in office during the Canonical Five, felt that the murder was similar to the Ripper cases, as did the coroner. However, Dr. George Phillips, who was involved in or attended the autopsies of four of the five canonical victims, did not believe this murder was consistent with Jack’s M.O.


jack ripper victims crime
A political cartoon from the era wearing a cap labeled “crime.” Source: Future Zone


Was Jack back? It would remain a mystery. Other murders were attributed to him in the years that followed, but none with certainty. The world remains at a loss regarding Jack the Ripper’s identity and motive. This mystery adds to the impression he left on England and the world, from the nineteenth century echoing into today.

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By Kassandre DwyerM.Ed HistoryKassie is a farmer with a passion for history who has a day job teaching middle school social studies in her hometown. In addition to earning NBCT certification and M.Ed. in History, she holds an M.Ed in Curriculum & Instruction and a B.S. in Sustainable Agriculture/Animal Science. She is particularly interested in telling the stories of often overlooked historical perspectives or hidden truths, and is especially intrigued by the history of America’s Indigenous peoples, war, and the “wild west.”