Illustration Depicting Jack the Ripper Attacking a Woman

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Illustration Depicting Jack the Ripper Attacking a Woman


By: Anonymous

Date: circa 1888

Source: "Illustration Depicting Jack the Ripper Attacking a Woman." Corbis, ca. 1888.

About the Illustrator: This image is part of the stock collection at the Corbis photo agency. It originally appeared in an 1888 edition of Police Gazette, an official newsletter issued by the London police. The name of the illustrator is unknown.


Jack the Ripper is a popular name given to a serial killer who murdered a number of prostitutes in London's East End over the course of several weeks in the latter half of 1888. The killer was never caught, despite the investigations of two police forces and extensive publicity.

As so often with serial killers, especially in the absence of an arrest and a trial, there is dispute over how many victims Jack the Ripper actually claimed. Some say as many as nine. However, it is widely accepted that Mary Ann Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes and Mary Kelly were killed by the Ripper, with Stride and Eddowes both being dispatched on the same night, September 30, 1888. After the death of Kelly on November 9, the killings suddenly stopped.

On September 27, the Central News Agency received a letter signed by "Jack the Ripper"—one of many received by police and reporters during the course of the investigation. It is generally believed that all of the letters were hoaxes, wasting valuable police time, for each one had to be followed up and investigated. Since the true name of the killer was never revealed, the title "Jack the Ripper" lives on in popular mythology.

The drawing below shows Jack the Ripper attacking a woman. He attacked from the front, first strangling his victim and then cutting her throat to silence her. This meant there was not much blood shed which attracted less attention—an important point as some of the killings probably occurred out of doors. Then he would mutilate the woman, usually carrying off some part of her anatomy, such as the kidney or uterus. The butchery was so precise that police officers believed the Ripper must have had special anatomical knowledge and might have been a doctor—or a butcher.



See primary source image.


Jack the Ripper remains a figure of fascination even in the 21st century. In London, tours around the murder sites are a popular tourist attraction, while researchers continue to argue the killer's identity. He was not the first serial killer the world has ever known but his crimes were perhaps the first to occur in a big and densely populated city. His actions, and those of the investigating police force, were widely publicized in the newspapers, both in England and abroad.

The murders took place in the overcrowded and poverty-stricken districts of Whitechapel, Spitalfields, Aldgate, and the City of London. The first three came under the jurisdiction of the Metropolitan Police, but the latter (where Catherine Eddowes was killed) had its own police force. The public and the newspapers were critical of the police investigation and the supposed lack of cooperation between the forces. But it is always hard to investigate serial killings, even with modern technology. This was in the days before the development of forensic science where police had to either rely on witnesses or catch someone in the act. The streets of the East End were a crowded maze which made any kind of criminal investigation especially difficult.

The Ripper left little by way of evidence but the police made many drawings and took photographs of the crime scenes—just as they would today. On the night of the double murder, a chalked message implying that Jews were responsible was found on a door near the crime scene. The Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Sir Charles Warren, ordered a cover-up of the message for fear it might incite riots against the Jewish population in the area, for there were already rumors that an immigrant Jew might be responsible for the murders and feelings were running high.

Police officers investigating the killings had their own views about who was responsible, but there was never a consensus. In 1903 Frederick Abberline, who had been in charge of the investigation on the ground, said he thought the Ripper was the multiple wifepoisoner Severin Klosowski, a theory that modern criminal profiling has rejected. Another suspect was a Polish Jew called Aaron Kosminski who went mad and was confined to a lunatic asylum shortly after the murders, dying soon afterwards. Other evidence, however, suggests that Kosminski was harmless and did not die till 1919. He may have been confused with another, more dangerous, Polish Jew who had a similar name. The latest suspect in the frame for the Ripper murders is a Dr. Francis Tumblety, who apparently fled to America after the crimes; this emerged in 1993 from investigation of a collection of letters belonging to a crime journalist which dates back nearly a century. There are many other theories as to the identity of Jack the Ripper. If the case can help understand modern serial killers, then the ongoing investigations clearly have some value.



Sugden, Philip. The Complete History of Jack the Ripper. New York: Carroll and Graf, 1994.

Web sites

Casebook. "Jack the Ripper." 〈〉 (accessed February 17, 2006).

London Walks. "Jack the Ripper Information." 〈〉 (accessed February 17, 2006).