Jack the Ripper
- Eshaan Shaikh
Jack the Ripper was an infamous serial killer who lived and killed in London in 1888, and remains unidentified till date. He is one of the world’s most infamous criminals, with tons of books, novels, TV shows and even video games being based around him. He was also known by the names “Whitechapel Murderer” and “Leather Apron”, the reason for the latter being that he mainly operated in the Whitechapel district of London.
The Ripper’s victims were generally prostitutes and women who lived and worked in the slums of the East End of London. He usually slit the throats of his victims prior to heavily mutilating their abdominal and genital area, leading people to believe he was well versed and fairly educated in human anatomy. According to legend, he himself sent letters to Scotland Yard and various media outlets confessing to his crimes, though most were speculated to be hoaxes fabricated by newspapers to increase sales and publicity. However, one letter titled “From Hell” contained half a preserved human kidney, supposedly taken from one of his victims.
He is believed to have claimed the lives of quite a few people, but only five are presumed to be his work due to the nature of the killings; they are commonly known as the Canonical Five. The Canonical Five consist of five victims - Mary Ann Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes and Mary Jane Kelly - who were murdered between 31st August and 9th November 1888. These murders were never solved and over time, multiple legends have formed around them. Each of them was killed in almost the same fashion: throats slit from left to right, with some form of abdominal mutilation; the only exception was Elizabeth Stride, who was found with only her throat slit.
The identity of the Ripper has been a topic of debate for many decades and is shrouded in mystery to this day. Tens, if not hundreds of theories have come to surface, including one that even related him to the Royal Family. A few suspects include a Polish Jew named Aaron Kosminski, the Duke of Clarence or Eddy - Prince Alberto Victor Eduardo, who was Queen Victoria’s grandson and a future heir of the Crown, the Royal Family’s personal physician Sir William Gull and a famous Polish painter named Walter Sickert. However, no concrete evidence has been found that could prove any of them guilty to this day.
Serial killers are usually classified into psychopaths and sociopaths. There has been a long-standing debate as to whether he was a psychopath or a sociopath. There are theories and studies that support both sides, but no firm diagnosis can be made due to lack of necessary information.
Psychopath: The reasons for him being a psychopath lie in the way he killed people and what he did to them. Many people believed he was a psychopath because he was smart enough to not leave behind any tangible evidence or pattern that could lead to his arrest or discovery. He was never caught, and was believed to be a charming and distinguished gentleman of society. Psychopaths are usually more careful and precise in their planning, making them significantly harder to find.
Sociopath: Sociopaths tend to move around a lot, which explains the Ripper’s concentrated activity over a few months in London and why he was never seen again. It also explains the brutal displays of his victims’ corpses and heavy mutilation of the bodies. Many people also believe that he dressed up as a charming and rich gentleman to attract the prostitutes who ended up as his victims, which displays sociopathic behaviour and even signs of DID (dissociative identity disorder).
His psychological outline suggests he was a disorganized killer, as his profile matches almost exactly to that of the famous ex-FBI agent Robert K. Ressler’s profile of disorganized killers:
“A disorganized crime scene reflects the confusion that reigns in the mind of the murderer and presents features of spontaneity and some symbolic elements that reflect his delusions. If the body is found (…), he will probably have terrible wounds. (…) The scene of the crime is also the scene of the death, because the offender does not possess sufficient mental clarity to move or hide the body.”
This profile heavily matches the Ripper’s, as there was no particular pattern or organization to his killings except the means and the method. His victims were completely random except for the fact that they were all prostitutes; aside that, he had no emotional or family ties to any of them. Ressler argued that he was a disorganized killer due to the increasing intensity of the brutality and violence of his killings. He says that if he had reached the peak of his mental disturbance, he would’ve ended up committing suicide or in a mental asylum, disappearing from society either way.
Jack the Ripper remains to this day one of the most discussed unsolved criminal cases of all time. It has made its way into popular culture too, with him and his crimes being the subjects of many movies, TV shows and even a few video games. Hopefully in the future, we might find new evidence which can help solve this 127-year-old murder mystery.