February 28, 2021

Jack the Ripper Cornered – The Province


Documentary about Jack the Ripper from the BBC.

Documentary about Jack the Ripper from the BBC.

So much has been written and fantasized about Jack the Ripper, about his identity and the motives that led him to commit his heinous crimes in Victorian London, it seems impossible that anything more could be contributed to the macabre and fascinating case of the Whitechapel murderer. The BBC documentary ‘Jack the Ripper: Case Open’ recaps the storya, provides new data and proposes different prisms to approach the myth. There is time to see it: it will be available on Movistar + until July 13, 2022.

Let’s recap too. Between August and November 1888, in Whitechapel, in London’s East End, an individual murdered five women. The cliché that they were all prostitutes was disproved long ago. Only two prostituted themselves. The patterns of the murderous sadist cemented the popular phenomenon of the serial killer.

Polly Nichols’ body turned up on August 31. The second victim was Annie Chapman, on September 8. Two more fell on the same day, September 30, Liz Stride and Catherine Eddowes. The circle was closed by Mary Jane Kelly, on November 9, the first to be murdered inside her home. They are known as the five canonical victims. The individual disfigured them to dehumanize them. After the fifth crime, the Ripper was gone forever.

Other victims

The case has fed all kinds of fictions. Notable films like John Brahm’s’ Jack the Ripper ‘(1944),’ which emphasized his sexual repression. Fantasies like the one proposed by Nicholas Meyer in ‘Time Passengers’ (1979), in which the Ripper travels in HG Wells’ time machine to the future. Crosses like ‘Study of Terror’ (1965) and ‘Murderer by Decree’ (1979), in which the murderer is chased by Sherlock Holmes. And a dense Alan Moore comic, ‘From hell’ (1993-1997), which speculates on the idea that the killer was someone important on the British political scene.

The documentary shows new revelations, different identity probabilities and other victims of the killer. It is still the most famous open case in the world. Using techniques worthy of the CSI series, such as the digital anatomy table, coroner Jason Payne-James explains in detail the damage inflicted on the first victim: neck wound near the jaw, circular incision around the neck to prevent him scream and a deep, snaking wound in the abdominal cavity, as if to sculpt the flesh.

A retired detective expert in crime scenes, Peter Bleckey, provides some interesting information: there were highly organized and totally disorganized aspects of each crime. He killed the second victim in a courtyard and in broad daylight, and although this data shows a certain lack of control, it also shows that the Ripper lived very close and knew the area perfectly.

Two women in the same day

More telling is the fact that murder two women on the same day, an hour apart and only a kilometer apart. Criminologist David Wilson carefully analyzes all these facts. “He was not focused on the act but on the process, satisfying his misogynistic sexual needs.” His theory is that the murder of the third victim, Liz Stride, was unsatisfactory: he could only cut her throat, since the unexpected entry of a carriage at the scene of the crime prevented him from culminating his sexual obsessions.

For this reason he went hunting for another woman on the same day, which was not his pattern, and an hour later he baited Catherine Eddowes. He needed to finish what he couldn’t do with Stride, hence the heightened violence in Eddowes: he mutilated his face, cut off both eyelids and pulled out entrails and intestines. The surviving photo of Eddowes’ body is gruesome, like Mary Jane Kelly’s: by murdering her in the victim’s own room, he did what he wanted to with her. Current research shows that she let him in, so he must have been a nice, even attractive guy. He slashed his face in dozens of directions, dismembered the corpse, and scattered the organs around the room for his macabre fantasies to flourish.

In the documentary we are reminded that the current average number of murders in the UK is 550, so Jack would not be an isolated event, if anything, a symptom. Meanwhile, David Wilson doesn’t back down until he proves there was a previous victim. She is Martha Tabram, separated, evicted and prostituted, who was found murdered on August 7 with 39 stab wounds. She was not related to subsequent cases because she had been seen with a soldier and it was concluded that the wounds were bayonet. The suspected soldier was never found.

Computer system

Thanks to a sophisticated computer system known as Holmes (without Sherlock), the case of Tabram has been reconstructed to detect possible coinciding patterns, ruling out murders committed at the same time by strangulation or other methods. Tabram appears to be the sixth canonical. In the documentary, the geographic profiles are then analyzed to certify that the Ripper lived in or near Whitechapel. To top it all off, the quite plausible hypothesis that the murderer was the Polish migrant Aaron Kosminski. Starting in 1885, he began to hear voices in his head. The police began to monitor him and perhaps that is why he was unable to commit more murders. His family admitted him to a mental hospital in 1890 for attacking his sister with a knife. He died of gangrene in 1919, 31 years after the murders.

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