Jack the Ripper

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The Whitechapel Murders and those of Jack the Ripper are not generally one and the same. Over a period of three years towards the end of the nineteenth century a number of prostitutes were murdered under different circumstances – the murder of prostitutes was not an especially unique occurrence during those times but several of the murders drew particular attention on account of the savagery with which the victim's bodies were mutilated. Within the Whitechapel Murders was a cluster of murders that demonstrated sufficient similarities as to suggest that they were committed by the same person. One of the first instances of serial murder was thus identified and sensationalised in the media as the work of ‘Jack the Ripper', nicknamed on the strength of a letter, probably a hoax, sent to the Central News Agency and claiming responsibility for the killings. Jack the Ripper was a man, and the killer surely was a man, who did not have the intention to merely kill his victims; he needed to mutilate them. Such was the savagery of his attacks and the enthusiasm of the press, that he successfully terrorised the environs of Whitechapel in East London for several years. In spite of an extensive investigation of the killings, Jack the Ripper was never apprehended nor convincingly identified.

The Ripper murders were conducted against a backdrop of appalling social deprivation and unimaginable poverty amongst the poor of East London. The advent of industrialisation resulted in widespread unemployment and with no social support other than from charities many people could afford neither food nor lodgings for days on end. The employment situation was even worse for women and it is little wonder that many had no alternative but to resort to prostitution as a source of income.

The newspapers of the day were as colourful and inaccurate in much of their editorial reporting as the police forensic investigations were limited through lack of investigative techniques. Even the

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