2. Annie Chapman

Annie Chapman (aka ‘Dark Annie’) was murdered about a week after Polly Nichols, on the morning of September 8th.  The forty-seven-year-old was found dead in the small, dingy backyard of number 29 Hanbury Street, and, like Nichols, Chapman was lying on her back, her throat cut and her stomach and genitals mutilated.

Was Chapman murdered by the same hand that slaughtered poor Polly Nichols?  While it’s impossible to say with one hundred percent certainty, it’s a good bet she was, and most researchers, as well as the police and doctors at the time, agree the two women were killed by the person known as Jack the Ripper.

How do we come to this conclusion?  For starters, both were East End prostitutes and were killed in the early hours.  Both were effectively homeless, needing the money earned from whoring to pay for a bed in one of the common lodging houses that littered the area, and both were found dead in out-of-the-way areas typically used for immoral purposes.  Also (not that this has any bearing on whether or not they were killed by the same hand, but it’s interesting to note nonetheless) both had been married, but had long since split from their husbands, due in part to their drinking problems.  Chapman, however, apparently didn’t start selling sex until after her husband died, in late 1886.

So here we have the same type of victim killed in a similar location.  Both were found lying on their backs with their legs parted and drawn up, and their clothing raised above their waists.  Like with Nichols, Chapman’s throat had been deeply severed, and there were two distinct cuts on the left side of the spine.  There was also bruising about the chin and jaw, and her face was swollen, as was her tongue, which was protruding between the front teeth.  Again, just like Nichols, it appears that the killer first suffocated Chapman, attacking suddenly and without warning (again, there were no signs of a struggle and even though numerous families lived in the row of houses along Hanbury Street, only one man heard something that may have been Annie’s last cry, and only then it was because he was outside in the backyard next door to number 29 at the time).

Like with Nichols, the genitals and abdomen were the focal points of Chapman’s killer.  Only this time, the scene was even more gruesome.  Her entire abdomen had been laid open and her small intestines severed from their attachments and placed over her right shoulder, with part of the stomach on the left shoulder.  The uterus, along with portions of the vagina and bladder, were missing, taken away by the killer.

So while Chapman’s murder was more gruesome than Nichols’s, it’s clear that the two share a remarkable amount of similarities.  Like with the previous murder, it appears that Chapman and her killer went to an area for solicitous purposes, and only when they arrived did the killer attack (there were no traces of blood in the street or the passageway leading from the front door to the backyard).  He most likely seized her around the chin with one hand and with the other, put pressure on her throat, suffocating her, and once she was dead or unconscious, he lowered her to the ground (I say lowered and not thrown because, like with Nichols, there was no evidence of bruising on the back of the head).  Then he cut her throat from left to right, severing the left carotid artery (again kneeling at the right side of her head), and after attempting to sever the head (but failing), went to work mutilating her body.  Again, as there was no blood drenching the front of her clothes, and only minimal blood splatter on the bottom of the fence that divided the backyards, it’s safe to say that her throat was cut after she was on the ground, and according to the doctor who examined Chapman, the mutilations occurred after death.

Along with the more severe mutilations, the killer also emptied Chapman’s pockets and arranged, neatly at her feet, a piece of muslin, and two small combs; and near her head he placed a portion of an envelope containing some pills.  This arranging of objects at the crime scene is sometimes present in other cases of serial murder (often of the mixed or disorganised type), as a way for the killer to create order out of disorder.  And along with the body parts, two cheap brass rings were taken from one of Chapman’s fingers (often serial killers will take ‘trophies’ from their victims, as a way of helping them to relive the murders).

Aside from the increasing brutality of the murder, Chapman’s murder is notable for a few other reasons.  For starters, it showed conclusively that there was a person out there with blood in their heart, that Nichols wasn’t merely a one-off.  That (even though the Victorians had no idea they were dealing with such a criminal) there was a serial killer on the loose.  Chapman’s murder gave rise to the popular ‘leather apron’ suspect, as well as the idea that the killer possessed surgical skills (an opinion put forward by only one doctor, and not an opinion shared by others, whose views ranged from some anatomical knowledge, to a complete amateur with no knowledge whatsoever).  It was also the murder that gave us the first possible sighting of the killer, and is still, in my opinion, one of the most likely.  At around 5:30 on the morning of the 8th, Elizabeth Long was walking down Hanbury Street, when she saw a man and a woman standing outside of number 29.  Long later identified Chapman as the woman she saw talking with the man, and even though the man had his back to Long, she still gave a brief description of him.  An extract from the Chapman inquest, as reported in The Times on the 20th of September, is as follows:

She (Mrs Long) did not see the man’s face, except to notice that he was dark.  He wore a brown deerstalker hat, and she thought he had on a dark coat, but was not quite certain of that.  She could not say what the age of the man was, but he looked to be over 40, and appeared to be a little taller than deceased.  He appeared to be a foreigner, and had a shabby genteel appearance.

Slightly conflicting with Long’s testimony was Albert Cadosch, the man who heard a woman cry “No” at around 5:20 that same morning, while he was in the backyard of number 27.  Even though there is a ten-minute discrepancy between Long and Cadosch, ten minutes when dealing with witnesses (not to mention people who didn’t own watches, instead going by public clocks) isn’t that much of a problem.  If we assume that Long was correct in identifying the woman she saw as Chapman, and that the cry Cadosch heard was also Chapman, then it’s a good chance that between these two witnesses, they saw Chapman with her killer and heard the moment of attack.  So, Chapman most likely was killed sometime between 5:20 and 5:50 (she was discovered at just before 6:00 by a carman named John Davis, a resident of number 29).  Though, due to Long seeing them together at 5:30, and the part of their conversation she heard indicated a mutual agreement for sex (“Will you?” she heard the man say.  “Yes,” the woman answered), I’d say her death was closer to 5:30.  So, the more extensive mutilations inflicted upon Chapman could have been a result of the Ripper having more time with the body, as opposed to possibly being interrupted by the sound of approaching footsteps in Buck’s Row a week previous.  Or, perhaps the Ripper was becoming more confident in his ability to evade capture.  Or maybe he needed to inflict more carnage on the body in order to fulfil his blood-lust.  Maybe it was a combination of all of the above.

Whatever the reasons, it should be pointed out that the backyard in Hanbury Street was arguably the riskiest of all the places the Ripper murdered and then mutilated a victim.  Not only were there numerous families living in the house, with numerous windows overlooking the yard, but there was only one way in and, therefore, only one way out of the backyard – through the narrow passageway that led through the house.  The Ripper only had one escape route, and could’ve been caught by any of the people living in the house at any time.  Though it probably took the Ripper no more than five minutes to complete his ghastly handiwork, it’s still a remarkable feat to subdue and then violently mutilate a person, in the dirty light of pre-dawn, all in full view of a dozen windows, and all without making a noise or getting caught.  In some ways this second canonical murder, more than any other, shows not only the Ripper’s cunning, but also his brutality, as well as his desperation.

Chapman’s murder could be seen as the quintessential Ripper victim.  The victimology, M.O. and signature have all the hallmarks of the killer known as Jack the Ripper, and that Chapman was murdered by this mysterious killer is one of the few issues every researcher seems to agree on.


*Learn more about Annie Chapman at the Casebook website here

Published on November 8, 2010 at 11:41 am  Leave a Comment  

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