3. Elizabeth Stride

‘Long Liz’ Stride was the first victim in what has come to be known as the double event.  She’s also among the most contentious of all the Ripper victims, and there remains some doubt over whether or not she was in fact a victim of the Ripper, or simply a victim of a random attack.

Liz Stride was a Swedish-born prostitute, and was forty-five when she was found murdered in Dutfield’s Yard at 1:00 am on the 30th of September.  She was discovered lying on her left side, her legs drawn up towards her chest in a kind of foetal position, by jewellery salesman Louis Diemschutz.  Though he initially thought she was either drunk or asleep, it was soon discovered that she was dead and that her throat had been cut.  There were, however, no other mutilations to the body.

While opinions were divided at the time of the Ripper murders (and remain so to this day), it’s still generally accepted that Liz Stride was killed by Jack the Ripper, due in part to Macnaghten’s 1894 memoranda in which he stated that the Ripper had five victims and five victims only (Nichols, Chapman, Stride, Eddowes and Kelly).  But, is this accurate?  Was Liz Stride the third victim of the Ripper?  Was she killed by the same person who brutally murdered Mary Ann Nichols and Annie Chapman?

In my opinion, yes.  I do believe she was a Ripper victim.  And here’s why.

Firstly, she fits the Ripper’s victimology and M.O.  Now, the East End in 1888 was a rough, dirty, crime-ridden den.  Violence was an unfortunate reality, even more so for those thousands of women forced onto the streets to sell their sex.  Crimes such as theft and abuse were rampant; however, murder wasn’t necessarily an everyday occurrence.  And even when it did occur, it was usually as a result of robbery, a drunken brawl, or spousal abuse.  There was a reason the Ripper murders both shocked and baffled the police and civilians in London (and indeed around the world).  Stranger murders, especially ones as brutal and macabre as those committed by the Ripper, were a rarity.  Even today murders are more often than not committed by someone known to the victim.  In the case of Stride, robbery didn’t appear to be a motive.  She wasn’t murdered by her lover (although he was looked into, but cleared by the police).  Nobody saw the murder take place, and nobody came forward to confess.  Like the two women before her, Stride was killed for no apparent reason, and was killed swiftly and quietly.

An interesting side note, on the night of the double event, another murder took place shortly before Stride’s murder, and only around three miles away.  Shortly before midnight on the 29th of September, a man walked into a police station in Westminster and admitted to killing his wife.  He subsequently handed the inspector a bloody knife and told him that his wife’s body could be found in his house, in Regency Street.  When the police went to the man’s house, they found the woman on the floor, with various stab and cut wounds to her throat.  The husband, John Brown, admitted that he killed his wife as a result of her (supposed) unfaithfulness.

I mention this case for a few reasons.  One, to illustrate that, while murder did happen in the area, it was more often than not a case of the victim and killer being known to one another – in this case husband and wife.  Also, while the woman’s murder may appear to be similar to that of Stride’s (fatal injuries to the neck), the important difference (of which I’ll discuss in greater detail later) is that there were stabs to the neck, along with the cuts (The Times reported on the 1st of October that: “Several wounds had been inflicted in the shape of stabs and cuts”).  So, hardly the deep and savage throat-cutting of Stride.  Furthermore, unlike Stride, there were stab wounds present, which indicates a level of anger and rage directed towards the victim – just the type of injuries you’d expect to see in a domestic murder fuelled by anger and jealousy.  And lastly, the killer turned himself in.  While the man had mental problems, he wasn’t a serial killer, his reasons for killing his wife, while unwarranted (and maybe even imagined) didn’t stem from deep-seated fantasies and blood-lust, but from a perceived unfaithfulness.  Therefore, once he had vented his anger and gotten rid of the source of his rage, his job was done and, clearly feeling some guilt over what he had done, walked to the police and turned himself in.  This is completely contrary to a killer like Jack the Ripper, who killed strangers for his own perverse pleasure and was cunning enough to evade capture time and time again.

Anyway, back to Long Liz.  Like the previous two victims, she was a poor prostitute killed for no apparent reason.  She was killed in the East End, in a dark, private (relatively speaking) location, just the kind of spot you’d expect a prostitute to take a John for some quick sex.  Though there were people living in the buildings around Dutfield’s Yard, nobody recalled hearing any screams or cries or noises that might indicate a struggle.  Indeed, according to the doctors who examined the murder scene, there didn’t appear to be any sign of a struggle.  Just like the previous two murders, it seems that Stride was killed suddenly and without warning.  The evidence to suggest this (aside from the apparent lack of screams, although this doesn’t necessarily mean there weren’t any) lies in two main factors.  One, there were no defensive wounds.  If Liz was aware of her attacker, someone either coming at her with a knife or even their fists, you’d expect to see some evidence of a fight, a struggle.  According to reports, her clothes were neither torn nor disturbed, and there were no injuries to her arms or hands.  All of this is suggestive of a sudden attack.  And two, Liz was found clutching a packet of cachous (breath mints used by smokers) in her left hand.  Common sense dictates that if Liz was embroiled in some kind of struggle, or even aware of an approaching attack, that she would have used her hands to ward off her attacker, and it’s hard to imagine such an event taking place and Liz either not dropping the packet of cachous or at least some of them falling out.  None were found scattered about the yard or out on the street.  I think that Liz still clutching the packet of breath mints indicates that not only was her attack sudden (her hand clenching upon commencement of sudden attack), but that she wasn’t expecting an attack to occur, period.  She clearly had the intention of popping a breath mint into her mouth when her killer struck, but hadn’t yet completed the act as no cachous were found in her mouth or stomach during the autopsy.  This could suggest either she was about to partake in sex with a John (really her killer posing as a client), and wanted to freshen up her breath, or that she was simply about to suck on a mint while waiting around for a client, in preparation.  Obviously we can’t know for sure, but I still think her holding the packet of breath mints in her hand even after death shows both a casual state on Liz’s part before the attack, and that her attack was so quick and unexpected she didn’t have time to drop them.

Now’s probably a good time to mention the incident that has long baffled and fascinated researchers, as well as provoked more than a few arguments.  It’s been used as an argument against Stride being a Ripper victim, and also been viewed as others as the most likely occurrence of a witness seeing the Ripper.

At around 12:45 am on the night of the double event, just fifteen minutes before Stride was found murdered, a man by the name of Israel Schwartz witnessed an altercation between a man and a woman, a woman he later identified as Stride.  As Schwartz was walking down Berner Street, a man walking ahead of him stopped and spoke to a woman, a woman who was standing in a gateway (the gateway that led into the yard where Stride was found murdered).  The man (whom Schwartz claimed appeared drunk) tried to pull the woman into the street, but then he turned her around and pushed her to the ground.  The woman screamed three times, though not loudly.  Not wanting to get involved, Schwartz moved across the street, and as he did, he saw another man come out of a public house (or he might’ve been simply standing on the pavement) lighting a pipe.  The first man, the attacker, apparently called out “Lipski!” to Schwartz (referring to a Jewish man named Lipski who, a year before, was convicted and hanged for poisoning a woman, and in the context of this incident, was most likely a racist jibe from the attacker towards the Jewish Schwartz).  Schwartz began to walk faster, wanting to get away, but thought he was being followed by the second man.  However, it’s possible that this second man was also hurrying away, also not wanting to be involved in the altercation.

Schwartz didn’t speak any English, and so his story had to be related to the police by an interpreter.  As a result, certain details of his story are muddled, and depending on which report you read, you get different variations on exactly what happened.  Still, the essence of the story remains the same: that is, a woman identified as Stride was assaulted around fifteen minutes before she was found murdered.  At first glance, this does seem an incredible piece of evidence.  After all, what are the chances of the same woman being attacked within the space of fifteen minutes?  So, the logical conclusion would be that the man Schwartz saw assaulting Stride was the same man who murdered her.  Then the only question is: was this Jack the Ripper, or just some random murder by a drunken lout?

However, I don’t think it’s as clear cut as that.  Let’s take a look at the first question: was the man Schwartz saw assault Liz Stride also her murderer?

I don’t believe so.  Again, the cachous seem to point towards the attacker not being her murderer.  Like I mentioned, Stride was holding the packet when she was killed.  There were none scattered about the street or around the yard.  So it’s logical then to assume she wasn’t holding them when the assault took place.  If she had been, then in all probability she would’ve dropped the packet or at least torn the packet open during her fall or while bracing her hands against the pavement.  Still, if we’re to believe the attacker was also her murderer, you have to contend with the idea that after being pushed to the ground, Stride got up, brushed herself off, and, presuming there’s no danger present (even though the man had just assaulted her), proceeded to take out her packet of cachous.  It was only then that the man, suddenly and without warning, pulled out a knife and decided to kill her.  To me, this doesn’t ring true.  I can’t see a man who readily assaults a woman in plain view of witnesses waiting until the scene is calm and relaxed again before killing her.  And even then without advanced warning to his victim (surely Stride would’ve been on guard around this man after the assault).

Then there’s the issue of motive.  Stride was a destitute whore.  She had no money.  She wasn’t killed in a lover’s quarrel.  The only explanation can be either the man was a violent drunk who simply wanted to kill someone that night (which doesn’t seem likely); or that he killed her out of anger because she refused to go with him (a more likely scenario).  But if he did kill her out of anger, then where’s the evidence of this anger?

Now, this is merely my opinion, but I think it logical to say that if someone kills another person out of rage or humiliation then there’s going to be a lot of violence present at the scene and on the person: i.e. signs of a struggle and defensive wounds.  As for the murder itself, you’d expect to see the type of injuries consistent with someone who was angry – multiple stab wounds, bruises and broken bones/fractures from a beating, or obvious signs of strangulation.  These are the kinds of injuries I’d expect to see on Stride if she was killed by the man who assaulted her.  Instead, all we get is a single cut to the throat.  No evidence of a fight; no bruising around her face; no defence wounds on her arms or hands; no stab wounds or signs of being beaten.  The only other wound was some bruising on her chest, most likely a result of being pushed to the ground fifteen minutes before her death.  Even when a husband or boyfriend murders his lover by cutting the throat, there’s usually other injuries present consistent with rage (see the case mentioned above for an example).

From the evidence, we can be certain that Stride was killed either while she was on the ground, or very nearly prone.  There was no blood on the front of her clothes that would suggest she was killed whilst standing, and there was no blood on the street or anywhere else in the yard.  The scarf she was wearing was pulled tight around her neck, suggesting she was pulled backwards with force.  So while there was no obvious signs of strangulation like the previous two Ripper victims, it seems likely that her killer seized her by the back of her scarf and yanked her backwards, thus possibly constricting her throat, which would account for the absence of screams and the lack of blood splatter.  Because, just like Nichols and Chapman, there wasn’t much blood found at the scene; no large arterial spray on the nearby wall or around the yard.  So, it’s safe to say that, like Nichols and Chapman, Stride’s throat was cut after she had been immobilised, and almost certainly when she was on or very near the ground.  Then, just like the previous two Ripper victims, the killer knelt by the right side of her head and cut her throat from left to right, death most probably being from severance of the left carotid artery.

It seems to me to be a remarkably precise and cool murder for a man who only a short time earlier pushed the victim to the ground in full view of witnesses; one committed with relatively little violence or signs of anger.  No, to me the murder appears to have been done by someone who knew about blood splatter, how best to avoid it, and who wanted to kill the victim as quickly and with as little fuss as possible – all hallmarks of the Ripper’s M.O.

Another M.O. of the Ripper’s that is evident with the murder of Stride is the idea that the killer placed the victims down, rather than throwing them, or letting them collapse to the ground.  There was never any evidence of head trauma in any of the victims, the kind that you’d expect to find if they had hit the ground with some force.  In all probability, the Ripper lowered them to the ground after strangling/suffocating them, before commencing the mutilations.  According to PC Lamb (the first officer at the Stride crime scene), Stride’s body: “…looked as if she had been laid quietly down.  Her clothes were not in the least rumpled”.  Hardly consistent with a violent assault by an embittered drunken ruffian.

So, in my opinion the man who assaulted Liz Stride wasn’t her murderer.  And, since I believe she was a Ripper victim, the man Schwartz saw wasn’t Saucy Jacky.  But, how likely was it that Stride was attacked by two different men in the space of around fifteen minutes?  I think very likely.  Remember, Schwartz wasn’t wearing a watch, and so he estimated the time he witnessed the assault from the time he arrived home.  So, it’s probable then that he could have been off by five, even ten minutes.  Now, of course this could mean he saw the assault closer to 1:00 (when Stride’s body was discovered), but it could equally mean he witnessed the assault at 12:40, or even earlier.  Considering the likelihood that Stride was killed only a short time before her body was found – possibly as late as 12:56 or even a few minutes after – then there’s the possibility that fifteen, even twenty minutes had passed between the assault and her murder: more than enough time for her to encounter another man – her killer.  Even if you accept Schwartz’s time, then the time between the assault and the murder could’ve been upwards of ten minutes – again, enough time for Stride to encounter her murderer.  Even the police at the time seemed to acknowledge that there was enough time for Stride to meet her killer after the assault.

Now, even though I believe Stride to be a Ripper victim, there are certain elements to her murder that don’t tally with the other victims, and they are some of the reasons why her candidacy as a Ripper victim has been considered doubtful.

Firstly, there was the lack of mutilations.  Now, this was Jack’s signature, the main reason he killed these women.  He needed to kill them in order to achieve his goal; however, he wanted to mutilate his victims in order to achieve a release.  So, you would expect a Jack the Ripper victim to show signs of genital/abdominal mutilation.  Still, the fact there wasn’t any on Stride doesn’t exclude her from being a Ripper victim.  There is a simple explanation as to why she wasn’t mutilated – Jack simply didn’t have the time to complete his mission.  By the doctor’s reckoning, Stride was killed from anywhere between 12:46-12:56, possibly even later.  Her body, face and legs were still warm when the doctor examined her at the scene at about 1:10 (ten minutes after the discovery of her body).  Therefore it’s very possible that Liz Stride was killed only a short time before Louis Diemschutz walked into the yard with his cart and pony.  It’s also possible that the killer was still in the yard, hiding in the shadows when Diemschutz entered (the yard was very dark).  Therefore it’s completely plausible that Jack, after suddenly attacking Stride, choking her with her scarf and then laying her down on the ground, heard the sound of a pony and cart approaching.  Wanting to make sure his victim was dead but not wanting to be caught, he hurriedly slit her throat and then jumped back, waiting, hoping the pony and cart would go past, but, as it turned into the yard, he realised he wasn’t going to be able to complete his mission.  So, once Diemschutz had left to find help, he made his escape.

There’s another possible explanation as to why Jack didn’t mutilate Stride.  In the ‘suspects’ page, I talk about my thoughts regarding Jack only killing when he felt safe, the situation comfortable (mind you, this is only my personal view).  It’s possible that Jack, for whatever reason, simply didn’t feel comfortable in Dutfield’s yard.  Perhaps he saw Stride standing there, and, figuring this could be an opportunity, posed as a client.  But maybe once they got into the yard, the situation just didn’t feel right for Jack.  Perhaps he still attacked her (against his better judgement) but, not feeling the area safe enough to stay and do what he needed in order to satiate his bloodlust, fled, and decide to instead wait for a better opportunity to present itself, a situation where he felt more comfortable.  So, maybe Diemschutz’s arrival didn’t scare him off; maybe he was already gone when Diemschutz entered the yard to find Stride dead.  Regardless of the reason, I still think it’s perfectly plausible that something scared Jack off, which is why there were no mutilations found on Stride.

I do think it’s important to remember that there was another Ripper murder that same night, less than an hour later.  Now, some researchers use this fact as a point against Stride being a Ripper victim; that, if it wasn’t for Eddowes’s murder, Stride wouldn’t have ever been lumped into the Ripper fold.  I for one think this is a backwards argument.  You can’t ignore the fact that another woman – certainly a Ripper victim – was killed the same night.  This means we know for certain the Ripper was out that night.  Chances are the Ripper was out looking for victims if not most nights, then most weekends.  But, we can’t be certain of this fact.  All we can know for sure is that he was out on the streets the nights he killed his victims.  So, he was definitely out the night Stride was killed.  Then there’s also the fact that on the only night he murdered two women, the first wasn’t mutilated, and the second horribly so.  Now, if it had been the other way around, if Eddowes had been killed first, and terribly butchered, and then Stride killed an hour later, but only had her throat cut, I’d be less inclined to think Stride a Ripper victim (but wouldn’t rule it out completely).  Because, the Ripper would have already gotten what he needed with the first victim.  He didn’t need to kill again after Nichols or Chapman.  But, as he didn’t get what he wanted from Stride, he did need to kill again.  I don’t think it’s a coincidence this happened.  A killer such as Jack, who practiced post mortem mutilation as his primary fetish, wouldn’t be content with simply cutting a woman’s throat.  The cutting of throats was, in my view, mostly a practical act – that is, to assure the woman was dead so he could concentrate on the task of mutilation.  I think it’s completely consistent with the Ripper that, if he wasn’t able to indulge in his bloodlust with one victim, he would then seek out another to fulfil his desires.  Which is what happened on the night of the 30th – the only known occurrence of both a double event, and of a victim not being mutilated.  The two aren’t exclusive events, but, in my view, linked.

Another inconsistency with Stride when compared with the previous Ripper victims was the apparent lack of suffocation.  Both Nichols and Chapman been strangled or suffocated; there were either bruises on the jaws and faces or swollen faces/tongues (sometimes both).  These injuries weren’t present with Stride.  However, as I mentioned, the knot of her scarf was pulled tight, so perhaps the scarf was used to constrict her cries and to incapacitate her.  The sudden attack that appears to have occurred in the murder of Stride is consistent with that of Jack the Ripper’s M.O.  So while there weren’t any noticeable signs of strangulation, I don’t see this as necessarily an issue.  Because, the fact is, Liz Stride was killed quickly and silently, and so however her killer did it, the end result was still the same.

Then there’s the issue of the throat wound itself.  The cut was neither as deep nor as long as those on the previous two murders (and that would be seen on the subsequent two).  The cut didn’t reach down to the vertebrae like with Nichols and Chapman.  Does this necessarily mean that the same hand didn’t cut Stride’s throat?  I don’t believe so.  Like I mentioned, it seems the killer fled quickly from the scene, most probably right after slitting Stride’s throat.  A quick cut would’ve been all that was needed to assure Stride’s death, and, once the deed was done, Jack left the scene.  While I think cutting the throat to assure death was the main reason for the act, there does appear to be some anger or other motivating factors involved.  The heads on the other four victims were almost severed from the body.  Sometimes there were two distinct cuts present.  So, perhaps Jack first cut the throat of his victims initially as a practical act to assure the woman was dead.  Then, once that had been done, he cut the throat again, a deeper cut in which he attempted to remove the head from the neck, indicating either a rage or morbid fascination with the idea.  Whatever the reason, you have to remember that all the other victims were found after Jack had completed his mission.  Whatever he wanted to do to the victims, within the time frame he had, he did, and so they were (for lack of a better term) the ‘finished product’.  With Stride, I see her as being the very beginning product – killed by a quick cut to the throat, but discarded before her killer could do anything more (not only the mutilations to the body, but also perhaps a second and more severe cut to the throat).

There’s been a long-standing myth that the knife used on Stride was markedly different than the one used on the other victims.  In truth, it was never stated that a different knife was definitely used on Stride; merely that, due to the superficial nature of the gash, the knife used on Stride could have been a shorter knife.  This misconception regarding the knife stems not only from the comparatively superficial cut on Stride’s throat, but also due to the fact that a knife was found a day after the murder in a nearby street.  This knife was long, yet rounded at the tip, and it was the opinion of the two doctors who examined Stride that this knife was not the murder weapon.  However, the discovery of this knife, coupled with the superficial nature of Stride’s throat injury, has mixed together and the myth that Stride was killed by a shorter, rounded knife (therefore signalling a different killer) managed to weave its way into the history books.

This idea of the other victims being ‘finished products’ could also extend to the last point of contention – that is, the way Stride was found on the ground.  All the other victims were found on their backs, legs parted and often drawn up.  Stride was found on her left side, legs drawn up to her stomach as if she was in pain.  Now, if we take the view the Jack killed Stride quickly and in a panic (either due to hearing the approaching pony and cart, or his not feeling safe in the yard), then it’s plausible he placed her on the ground however she basically fell, cut her throat, and then left.

I simply don’t think the fact that Stride was found on her side rather than her back excludes her in any way of being a Ripper victim.  Nor does the lack of mutilations and more superficial throat cut.

So, in summing up, let’s first take a look at the differences between Stride’s murder, and those of Nichols and Chapman:

*there were no abdominal/genital mutilations

*the throat wound was comparatively shallower and shorter in length

*no obvious signs of strangulation/suffocation

*found lying on her left side as opposed to her back

 

Now let’s look at the similarities between Stride’s murder and those of Nichols and Chapman:

*Stride was a penniless prostitute

*she was killed in the relatively small Whitechapel district

*she was murdered in a dark, out-of-the-way spot in the early hours

*no apparent motive for her murder

*nobody saw or heard the murder taking place

*she was killed swiftly

*no evidence of a struggle

*she was laid gently on the ground before her throat was cut

*little blood at the scene, and what little there was, was contained to the injured area of the body

*no blood was on the front of her clothes, so her throat was most likely cut whilst on the ground

*the killer knelt by the right side of her head and cut the throat from left to right

*death was most likely due to the severance of the left carotid artery

*killer left no clues at the scene

 

It’s also interesting to note that the first three canonical victims were all found very close to a wall (or fence), and in exactly the same position in regards to the barrier.  All three were found with their left side closest to the wall (or, if you were standing facing the wall or fence, their heads would be pointing to your left, their feet to your right), in order for the Ripper to have room to kneel at the victim’s right side, thus allowing the blood to flow away from him when he made the fatal cut to their throat (indicating the Ripper was right-handed).

While we obviously can’t know for sure what happened to Liz Stride on that cold, wet September night, who killed her and why, I think the fact there was a serial killer already working in the area, killing homeless prostitutes in the wee hours, doing so quickly and with little noise, and by cutting the throat from left to right, makes it clear, at least in my mind, that Elizabeth Stride was killed by the same person who murdered Nichols and Chapman.  For Stride to be killed by a stranger, for no apparent reason, on the same night the Ripper was most definitely out stalking the streets, with not only a knife, but in an eerily similar fashion to that of the Ripper is, for me, too great a coincidence to accept.

 

*Learn more about Elizabeth Stride at the Casebook website here

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Published on November 8, 2010 at 11:43 am  Leave a Comment  

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