One of the most menacing and mysterious tales of murder ever known is that of Jack the Ripper.  The infamous murders were committed in the Autumn of 1888 on the Streets of Whitechapel, London. Their gruesome similarities along with written letters to local authorities and journalists lead to the murders being linked, however the serial killer was never caught.

In the years since the spree of murders, there has been a number of people suspected of being Jack the Ripper himself, however no one was ever convicted for the murders. To help make sense of it all, here is what we actually know about the identity of the brutal serial killer.

The name

The name “Jack the Ripper” originally came from a letter which was written during the time of the murders. The Dear Boss letter was posted to the Central News Agency and was the first to be signed by a “Jack the Ripper”. The letter was initially dismissed as a hoax but was taken more seriously after the next victim Catherine Eddowes was found three days later missing an ear. The letter specifically mentions “the next job I do I shall clip the lady’s ear off”.

The appearance

Unfortunately, there is no substantial proof of what he looked like, with only a handful of eye witnesses describing a fleeing character from murder scenes. Some have said he had “foreign features” which lead to a number of Eastern European suspects. The most recognised image of Jack the Ripper is one of a well dressed man carrying a large bag.

The appearance and bag are linked to the precision of the murders, which made many believe he could have previously been a doctor. The medical bag would have been used to carry his deadly instruments, however no proof was ever found to actually link this image. Many actually believe he would have been a fairly poor person due to the area in which the murders took place and therefore would not have dressed so well.

The Murders

There are five murders which are widely associated with Jack the Ripper, though a number more which were committed nearby in the Whitechapel area are also linked with the mysterious Ripper. The Canonical Five as they have become to be known were Mary Ann Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes and Mary Jane Kelly.

These five were all linked by the fact that they had at least casually and at most regularly worked as a prostitute. They are also linked due to the striking brutality of the murders. All of his victims had deeply cut throats, mutilated abdominal and genital areas and the majority of their internal organs removed. All five were murdered on the streets of Whitechapel just a few streets from each other. They are all thought to have been committed under the cover of darkness.

The suspects

Because no one was brought to justice for the murders, speculation around the murders has raged on for more than 100 years. Obviously because of the sheer amount of time that has passed, there have been so many names linked with the murders with varying degrees of validity, so here is a pick of the most interesting and likely.

Motague John Druitt – Druitt was a doctor who disappeared around the time of the final murder on 9th November 1888. While he was never convicted of anything, there were allegations brought against him saying he was “sexually insane”. One of the Scotland Yard Inspectors, Inspector Macnaghten, believed he was the killer. His body was found floating down the Thames just one month following the murders.

Dr Neill Cream – The Scottish doctor committed four very similar murders just four years later and was hanged shortly after. It is alleged that as he was hanged his three last words were “I am Jack.” His understanding of the female anatomy and skill with knives makes him a prime suspect, however it is thought he may well have actually been in prison in Illinois USA at the time of the first murder.

Mary Pearcey – a developing idea is that he could actually have been a she. Dubbed “Jill the Ripper, Pearcey was hanged for the murder of a woman and child in 1890, their murders were similarly brutal to those committed by the ripper. Recent DNA evidence says the stamps on the ripper letters were a woman’s DNA, whilst Sherlock Holmes creator Arthur Conan Doyle believed the Ripper could have been a woman as she could have posed as a midwife and walked in plain sight covered in blood without being questioned.


The lasting appeal of the Ripper murders both down to their brutality and the lack of closure. Incredibly there is still research and investigations continuing to this day, so one day we may even find out who the real Jack was. Until then we can merely take educated guesses.