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Jack The Ripper


The murders of several women in London's East End are perhaps the most famous serial murders in the world. Every few months, it seems, new theories about who the murderer was are proposed; each more shocking and eye-catching than the last - was it a Polish Jewish butcher, a secret love child from the Royal Family, an Irish terrorist or even high-ranking policemen in cahoots with a masonic conspiracy involving the Prince of Wales, a Russian spy and a diamond mine? A whole industry has sprung up and nearly 200 books published over the years, each with their own theories. Tours of the sites in Whitechapel (at least what remains of them) are done by guides dressed in Victorian garb recounting all the gruesome details and promoting their own theories. Websites exists where amateur sleuths pore over every detail in the hope of identifying him once and for all.

Such people are called Ripperologists. Even today, artefacts come to light that send the them into a frenzy of excitement. A claimed shawl supposedly found with one of the victims was used by one writer a few years ago and sent for DNA testing. The testing allegedly confirmed one theory, although there was much criticism of the methods used. He claimed the shawl had been unwashed since the 1880's and had been a family heirloom from one of the policemen involved in the case. Supposedly it was of too good quality to have belonged to a poor prostitute so must therefore have been left at the scene by Jack himself. Of course, the writer got a book deal out of it.

The victims of these murders - Mary Ann “Polly” Nicholls, Annie Chapman, Catherine Eddowes, Elizabeth Stride and Mary Jane Kelly are largely forgotten about in this industry, other than being dismissed as prostitutes or destitute alcoholics. Just the canvas for Jack's acts of depravity. Nearly every book, film or documentary starts with their murder which is described in gruesome detail. Rather than constantly wondering who the Ripper was and building an industry around his actions, perhaps we should remember that the 5 women (at least) he killed were real human beings with complex lives, whose tragic end has been immortalised. We know who they were and much about their lives (see Hallie Rubenhold's book: The Five). Let's not victimise them any further with ever more salacious and extraordinary speculations based on nothing but conjecture, speculation and imagination.

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