I have always been fascinated by the history of Jack The Ripper, one of the most notorious serial killers in the history of mankind, whose true identity remains a mystery to this very day. The moment I stepped foot on London soil for the very first time, I decided that going on a Jack The Ripper walking tour would be one of the must-do things I have to do upon my arrival.
There are many Jack The Ripper walking tours available in London, costing from GBP 3 – GBP 7 per person, but we were given a `special’ tour by one of our friends, Nina, whose thesis happened to be on the infamous 19th-century murder mystery. We met up at Whitechapel tube station around 7.30 in the evening. There were four of us, including Nina, who insisted that the best time to go on the tour is around this time, just after dark. The air grew chillier as the evening got darker, which set the mood for the tour perfectly. We shivered in the cold air – and in anticipation – as we walked down to Durward Street, formerly known as Bucks Row, the crime scene of the first Jack The Ripper victim.
The Old Board School loomed gloomily in the dark, a witness to the horrific crime committed just a few steps down the road. We walked past the school towards a small area to its right, now a parking area, just before the row of modern houses further down the street. A gateway used to stand here where the body of Mary Ann Nichols was found at around 3.40 a.m. on August 31st, 1888. Our hairs stood on ends as we listened to the gory and grisly details of the murder from Nina. Mary Ann Nichols was found with her throat slashed so deep her head was almost severed from her body, and disembowelled with a deep gash running along her abdomen.
We then headed for Hanbury Street, the site where the second victim, Annie Chapman, was discovered. It is strongly advised that you take extra precautions when travelling through this area at this hour, as the East End proves to be quite dodgy at night, especially in quiet places like the ones we were passing then. Annie Chapman was found in the backyard of 29 Hanbury Street in the gap between the steps and the fence, with her throat slashed and her intestines laid across her shoulder.
The night got colder as we made our way to Henriques Street, formerly known as Berners Street, where the body of the third victim, Elizabeth Stride, was discovered. Elizabeth Stride was found in Dutfield’s Yard just off Berner’s Street, with just her throat slashed, severing her windpipe clean. It was believed that Jack The Ripper didn’t have the chance to finish off his `work’ after being disturbed by the arrival of the body’s discoverer on a pony and cart, forcing him to flee the scene in a hurry. Due to this fact, Elizabeth Stride was often referred to as `Lucky Liz’, having escaped further mutilations on her body. A modern school building now stood at the spot where the yard used to be.
After a 12 minutes’ walk from the third crime scene, we arrived at the fourth at Mitre Square, where the body of Catherine Eddowes was discovered less than an hour after the body of the third victim was found. It seemed that Jack The Ripper had unleashed all his frustrations at not being able to finish off his previous job – and thus, sated his craving for mutilation – on the fourth victim. Catherine Eddowes was found ripped open from her stomach all the way to her chest, with her intestines thrown over her right shoulder and her nose cut off from her horribly-mutilated face. Her left kidney and her uterus had been found missing from her body. A flower bed now occupies the site where the body was found, but it didn’t make it any less spookier visiting it at this time of the night. Later that night, my friend, Lisa, leant over and whispered in my ear that she had felt something lightly brushing past her as we stood over the crime spot.
We then moved on to the scene of the final, and most gruesome, discovery in the Jack The Ripper serial killings – Miller’s Court, just off Dorset Street. It was here that the body of Mary Kelly was found by her landlord in her dwelling. The site of Miller’s Court is now occupied by a food warehouse, the gap in the pavement below the loading bay the only clue left as to where the entrance used to be.
Mary Kelly, a pretty 25 years old Irish lass, was found sprawled on her bed, mutilated beyond recognition. Her body was reduced to a huge bloody mess, with its contents emptied – some laid on the bedside table, some around her body and some placed underneath her head, while her heart went missing, believed to have been thrown into the fireplace. Jack The Ripper really took his time with his final `masterpiece’. We bowed our heads in prayer at the entrance of the former Miller’s Court. This time, the spooky atmosphere had been replaced by one that was deeply sombre and melancholic, so much so that it made one of us cry.
We finished off the tour with a round of drinks at The Ten Bells pub on Commercial Street, where Mary Kelly was last seen alive. The pub is the only public house within the area that had survived the times. We sat for hours discussing Jack The Ripper theories, and wrapped up our discussion with a toast in memory of the poor souls who had met their fate at the hands of Jack The Ripper.