Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Murder of Christine Rothschild

                                                      Christine Rothschild murdered on the UW campus in 1968.   UPDATE:  Person of Interest in case.
                                                              Christine Rothschild

The fall of 1967 was an exciting time for 18- year -old Christine Rothschild. Christine or “Chris” as she was known to her friends, had recently graduated from Senn High School in Chicago, Illinois a few months prior and was starting her freshmen year at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Christine took up residence at Ann Emery Hall, room 119 on the university campus.
On the cool damp morning of May 26, 1968 Christine Rothschild was up at 4 a.m. The night hostess, Mrs. Gertrude Armstrong said “She came out of her room, headed for the bathroom. I met her in the hall-we almost ran into each other. That was the last time I saw her.”

Seeing Christine out and about in the early morning hours was nothing out of the ordinary. She enjoyed taking morning walks around campus around 7 to 7:30 each morning.

On that last morning, Christine put on a mini-dress, black boots and an all-weather coat and set out for her walk. What happened after she left her dorm is something only Christine and her killer know.
Around 7:30 p.m. that same day, 22 year old University Maintenance worker Phillip Van-Valkenberg tried to enter Sterling Hall. Finding the doors locked, he went to knock on a lower window behind some bushes in front of Sterling Hall.  In those bushes Van-Valkenberg came upon the horrific sight that sent shock waves throughout the entire university.

Christine Rothschild’s lifeless body had been found. It was a sight UW-Madison Police Chief Ralph Hanson would never forget. “I don’t know what kind of person would have done this,” he said.
According to Hanson Christine had been stabbed 14 times in the chest and neck. She also had four broken ribs and a broken jaw, along with being strangled with the lining of her own coat. Police said the coat lining was tied into a “slip knot” around her neck and Christine’s gloves were shoved down her throat. Chief Hanson would not say if Christine was killed where her body was found, but said there was “plenty of blood” at the scene.

There was no sign of sexual assault. Christine was still fully clothed in her mini-dress, black boots and a three-quarter length beige all-weather coat. However, her clothing was “ripped and askew” in some places, but otherwise intact.

The police also reported Christine was still wearing her rings that appeared “expensive” and a bloody “man’s handkerchief” was found under her head. There was also a broken umbrella sticking out of the ground found next to the body.
While no murder weapon was found, the broken umbrella and handkerchief were sent to the FBI for forensic testing. However, the tests conducted could not link anyone to the murder. DNA evidence was not available at this time. The two key pieces of evidence were sent back to UW-Madison Police Department and from there sent to the county sheriff’s office for safe keeping.  The evidence was ultimately lost so no modern day analysis can be done.

Since the murder of Christine Rothschild is still an open case, what remaining evidence there is, is not known. At the time of the murder, there was speculation by the local press that there could have been foot prints left at the scene since it rained recently. However, this is not confirmed by police.
The attack on Christine seemed a bit of an overkill one could say. The intensity of the violence seemed personal in nature, leading some to believe Christine may have known her killer. She was described by those that knew her as a happy and easy going person. So just who exactly could have done this?

Chief Hanson had no leads to go on, but his department interviewed several people right away. Nothing would come of it and the State Crime Lab, who searched the crime scene, refused to disclose if any leads had been found.
As the summer of 1968 continued, investigators looked into several “persons of interest” but none proved to be the killer. There was even a $5,000 reward offered to anyone with information, but that also lead nowhere. With no new leads, no new suspects and no murder weapon, Christine’s murder was placed into the “cold case” file.

Jumping ahead to 2009, the hunt for Christine Rothschild’s killer is still active. On Saturday, August 29, 2009 NBC News 15, a local news station in Madison, Wisconsin broke the news that police have a person of interest in the murder.

Forty-one years after she was murdered, could it be Christine’s killer was finally found? Many, including Christine’s close friend Linda Schulko says “no.” The news story claimed serial killer William Floyd Zamastil is a “person of interest” in the Rothschild killing. Zamastil is currently serving a life sentence for the 1978 murder and rape of a Madison woman. He has also been indicted for the 1973 murder and rape of a woman from Arizona. Zamastil was sixteen years old when Rothschild was killed and was said to be living in Madison at the time.

“I’m really skeptical that Zamastil murdered Chris,” said Linda Schulko to NBC News. It was Schulko that has been the driving force in keeping her dear friend’s murder a live. “If Zamastil had murdered her, this would possibly be his first crime of this nature.”
One major problem police have not explained is how different Zamastil’s other victims died compared to Rothschild. Zamastil raped and shot his victims, then took their bodies far from the crime scene. Christine was strangled and stabbed, not shot. She also was not raped like the others. It is also safe to assume she was killed where she was found based on the amount of blood discovered in the bushes. According to Schulko she thinks, “This is a cop out for a serial killer to take the rap on something, that it won’t make a difference since he’s already serving a life sentence.”

As the years have passed, the trail continues growing colder. Police checked several leads early, but admitted they had no motive and no weapon to link to the crime.
There was however, one suspect that stood out from the others. He was a resident surgeon at the University of Wisconsin Hospital at the time of Christine’s murder. The hospital was located across the street from Sterling Hall and it was common, according to Schulko, for Christine to stop for a break and have a cigarette with this surgeon.

Linda Schulko says this doctor wanted to date Christine, but Christine was not interested in him. Police, in September, 1968 went to New York where this doctor moved shortly after the murder. The detectives questioned him for hours only to leave without making an arrest. A mistake Schulko felt on the part of the police. In one statement Schulko wrote, “I have been in written and verbal correspondence” with the suspect and “have no doubt he is a psychopath.”
In an August, 2011 article published by The Globe and Mail, a college professor sent out students to conduct their own investigation on cold cases. One group of students were assigned to the Rothschild murder. These students were able to get into contact with the doctor who was 84 at this time and living in New York. He denied he was the killer, but spoke at length with some students about the case. The murder was “like an act of rage” and the 14 stab wounds were “too many-one good thrust would do the job if you had the knowledge of anatomy to do it.”

After the interview and a 40-page case analysis, which the students concluded “was probably not the work of a serial killer,” was turned over to UW-Madison Police. The lead detective commented “he (the doctor) is still a person of interest. It’s a fairly short list and he’s on it.”
No arrests have been made and more time passes by without any further investigaton.

After 47 years, no one has been captured or paid for the needless murder of an 18 year old college student who had her whole life a head of her. Christine’s family and best friend mourn her death as much today as they did in 1968. They all look forward to the day when her killer is brought to justice.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

A Life Turned Tragic: Major Henry Rathbone and the Lincoln Assassination

                            (Article originally published by Emerging Civil War.com, July 31, 2014)
By the beginning of April 1865, the Civil War was essentially over and Washington was in the mood to celebrate. On the day before the assassination of Lincoln, April 13, the city of Washington had been putting on grand shows with fireworks, bonfires and torchlight parades. Most everyone had reasons to be in good mood, of course with the exception of the well- known stage actor, John Wilkes Booth.

Major Henry Reed Rathbone, along with his fiancée Clara Harris, was in a celebrating mood. On that night the Major and Miss. Harris were asked by President Lincoln to accompany him and the First Lady to Ford’s Theatre. Rathbone accepted the invitation. The night of April 14th was supposed to be a great night of celebration since the bloody Civil War had ended days before. Little did Major Rathbone know, later that evening, his life would change forever.
Around 8:20 P.M on April 14 Major Rathbone and Clara Harris met the President and Mary Lincoln at the Harris residence on the “corner of 15th and H Streets.”[1] From there, Rathbone and Harris rode with the Lincoln’s to the theatre.

By the time they arrived the play, Our American Cousin had already begun. As the President and his party made their way to the presidential box, the performance on stage had stopped. The crowd began to cheer and the orchestra started playing “Hail to the Chief.” President Lincoln simply smiled, bowed and continued toward his parties waiting box that had been prepared. President Lincoln took his seat in a cushioned rocking chair near the door, his wife Mary would take the chair to Lincoln’s right. Major Rathbone would be seated farthest away from the door on an upholstered walnut sofa[2] with Miss Harris to his right.

Around 10:15 P.M the play was in Act 3, scene 2 and it was at this point John Wilkes Booth slipped in through the door of the Presidential Box. On Stage actor Harry Hawk said his famous line that normally received loud laughter from the crowd. As expected, the crowd burst into laughter and at this point, Booth fired his shot into the back of Lincoln’s head. The audience grew silent.

The smoke from Booth’s gun filled the Presidential Box, but Major Rathbone was able to see the assassin. “I instantly sprang toward him and seized him,” Rathbone testified on May 15, 1865 for the prosecution during the conspiracy trial.[3] “He wrested himself from my grasp, and made a violent thrust at my breast with a large knife. I parried the blow by striking it up, and received a wound several inches deep in my left arm, between the elbow and the shoulder.”[4]

As Booth was able to break free from Rathbone’s grip, the Major lunged at Booth again; however he was only able to grab a piece of clothing as Booth made the twelve foot leap onto the stage. “As he went over upon the stage, I cried out, stop that man!”[5] The frozen crowd could only watch as Booth ran across the stage. Many witnesses would later claim they at first thought Booth leaping from the Presidential Box was part of the performance.

Major Rathbone then turned his attention to the president. Rathbone remarked Lincoln had not changed positions, but his head was “slightly bent forward and his eyes were closed.”[6] Major Rathbone assumed Lincoln’s wound was mortal so he hurried to the door of the Presidential Box to seek medical aid. The door, as Rathbone soon discovered had been barred shut by the assassin with a piece of plank which was secured in the wall on one end and the other tight against the door.
The Major could hear people on the other side of the door trying to get in, but were unable to. Booth’s trick with the piece of plank served its purpose. Major Rathbone, after several attempts of trying to remove the plank, was finally successful and managed to get the door open.  Several people tried to gain entrance; one of them was Dr. Charles Leale.

Dr. Leale (1842-1932) was the first surgeon to reach President Lincoln, thus making him the primary physician in the case. Leale wrote about the tragic event in his 1909 writings titled Lincoln’s Last Hours. In it he described what happened as he entered the Presidential Box. “Major Rathbone had bravely fought the assassin; his arm had been severely wounded and was bleeding. He came to me holding his wounded arm in the hand of the other, beseeching me to attend to his wound. I placed my hand under his chin, looking into his eyes an almost instantaneous glance revealed the fact that he was in no immediate danger…”[7] Leale then moved on to attend to President Lincoln. Upon the first look at Lincoln, Dr. Leale thought Lincoln was dead. “His eyes were closed and his head had fallen forward. He was being held upright in his chair by Mrs. Lincoln, who was weeping bitterly.”[8] Dr. Leale then placed his finger on the President’s right radial pulse; however, he wasn’t able to feel any movement from the artery. Leale made the decision to remove Lincoln from his chair and place him on the floor, hoping this would help with reviving him.

After Lincoln was laid out on the floor the search for the wound was sought out. Dr. Leale recalled seeing Booth, as he ran across the stage with a dagger in his hand. With this remembrance and seeing Major Rathbone’s injury, Leale thought it possible President Lincoln may have been stabbed. “…while kneeling on the floor over his head, with my eyes continuously watching the President’s face, I asked a gentleman to cut the coat and shirt open from the neck to the elbow to enable me, if possible, to check the hemorrhage that I thought might take place from the subclavian artery or some other blood vessel.”[9]

 No injury was discovered and it was then that Dr. Leale lifted Lincoln’s eye lid. From the look of the eyes, Leale determined Lincoln had a brain injury. Dr. Leale then ran his fingers through Lincoln’s hair and the bullet wound was found. Dr. Leale was able to remove some of the clotted blood in the wound, when this happened, pressure on the brain was relieved and Lincoln had a pulse.

While Dr. Leale was attempting to save the life of President Lincoln, two other doctors, Dr. Charles S. Taft and Dr. Albert F.A. King had come to render any assistance. The three doctors figured it was best to remove the president from the theatre, but he was too badly wounded to transport back to the White House. Instead, they had Lincoln taken to a boarding house across the street where he was placed in a bed that was too small for his large frame; Lincoln had to be placed diagonally on the bed in order for him to fit.
Mary Lincoln was assisted across the street by Major Rathbone and Clara. Mary would call out “oh! My husband’s blood” every time she would see Clara’s blood stained dress. Although the blood probably was Rathbone’s, that didn’t register to Mary at the time. When they arrived at the boarding house across the street, Mary went to the room where the president was placed. Dr. Leale began to make a complete examination and asked some people, including Mrs. Lincoln to step out.
 As the examing of President Lincoln took place, out in the hallway, Major Rathbone started feeling light headed. Rathbone then passed out and was taken back to the Harris home. Clara remained with the first lady for a while, but later left to attend to her fiancée. At the Harris residence, Dr. G. W. Pope was called to attend to the wounded Rathbone. Pope recalled Rathbone being stripped of his clothes and how pale he looked.

Due to the loss of blood, Henry became delirious and continued talking about the shooting of Abraham Lincoln. The Assassination of the president was something that haunted Rathbone for the rest of his life. There were always feelings of guilt since he wasn’t able to stop Booth. As years went on, Rathbone’s knife wound healed, but his mental health did not.
Weeks after that tragic April night, Clara Harris posed for Photographer Matthew Brady, who was well known for his photography during the Civil War. Clara wore the dress she had on the night the president was assassinated, blood stains still remained on it. Harris later told a friend she was doing what she could to forget about the shooting and the wounding of Henry Rathbone, but wasn’t able to.
As time passed by, seventeen years to be exact, Henry’s wounds all healed up, at least on the outside, went to Albany to the office of his wife’s uncle. Hamilton Harris was the man a younger Henry Rathbone studied law with and on this day, Henry was on his way back to Europe with his family. This time was different though, as Harris thought. Henry was ill and when asked what was wrong, Rathbone simply said it was dyspepsia which is a chronic ailment of the stomach.
When Henry was 45 years old, in the fall of 1882 Henry was constantly plagued by mysterious medical problems. One doctor that treated him described the attacks as “neuralgia of the head and face” and heart palpitations and difficulty breathing were also symptoms Henry suffered from. It was in 1870 that Henry retired from the Army due to his sickness.[10]

After Rathbone’s visit to Hamilton Harris’s office, Rathbone and his family set sail to Germany. After their arrival Henry’s health continued to fail. He became depressed and some people called him erratic. His marriage to Clara also suffered more and was tense much of the time. One of the problems with Henry’s depression was he seemed to be under the impression Clara was leaving him and taking the kids.

 On Christmas Eve in 1883, just before dawn Henry lost all control, grabbed his revolver and knife and walked to his children’s bedroom. Clara, who was able to distract Henry, had him follow her into their bedroom and closed the door. It was there that Henry shot and stabbed Clara until she died. Henry then turned the knife on himself, but failed the suicide attempt. News spread fast about the tragic events that took place in Germany. Several people believed Henry never fully recovered from the events that took place at Ford’s Theatre in 1865. “The scene always haunted his mind,” Rathbone’s lawyer said.[11]

  Dr. Pope said, “He never was thoroughly himself after that night…I have no hesitation in affirming that the dreaded tragedy, which preyed upon his nervous and impressionable temperament for many years, laid the seeds of that homicidal mania.”[12] Henry Rathbone was declared insane and was never allowed to be prosecuted for the crime of murder. Henry, after recovering from his wounds was sent to live out his days in the Provincial insane Asylum where he dies on August 14, 1911.

Major Henry Rathbone suffered from Lincoln’s Assassination for the rest of his life and most are convinced that night in 1865 played a large part in Henry going insane. When John Wilkes Booth entered the Presidential Box at Ford’s Theatre on April, 14 1865 he not only took the life of President Lincoln, but also Henry and Clara Rathbone’s. Henry’s life was a life turned tragic.





Edwards, William C and Edward Steers Jr. The Lincoln Assassination: The Evidence. University of Illinois Press Urbana and Chicago, 2009. P 1080.

 Leale, Charles A. Lincoln’s Last Hours, 1909. Reproduction by Kessinger Legacy Reprints.

Ruane, Michael E. (April, 2009) A Tragedy’s Second Act, Washington Post.

Steers, Edward Jr. The Trial: The Assassination of President Lincoln and the Trial of the Conspirators. The University Press of Kentucky, 2003.

[1] Edwards, William C and Edward Steers Jr. The Lincoln Assassination: The Evidence. University of Illinois Press Urbana and Chicago, 2009. P 1080
[2] Ibid
[3] Steers, Edward Jr. The Trial: The Assassination of President Lincoln and the Trial of the Conspirators. The University Press of Kentucky, 2003.
[4] Ibid
[5] Ibid
[6] Ibid
[7] Leale, Charles A. Lincoln’s Last Hours, 1909. Reproduction by Kessinger Legacy Reprints.
[8] Ibid
[9] Ibid
[10] Ruane, Michael E. A Tragedy’s Second Act, Washington Post.
[11] Ibid
[12] Ibid

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Lincoln’s last visit to Wisconsin

                         (Originally Published in the July, 2013 edition of the Surratt Courier)

Before Abraham Lincoln was elected President of the United States in 1860, he like the Presidential candidates of today, traveled to different states campaigning. In October 1859 Lincoln traveled to Janesville, Wisconsin to give a speech against his presidential rival, Stephen A. Douglas. It was in Wisconsin that Lincoln would meet a young man by the name of Lucien S. Hanks and Hanks would have a night he would remember for the rest of his life.

In 1859 Lucien Hanks (1838-1925) was a college student in New York City, but just happened to be in Janesville at the time of Lincoln’s speech. Hanks was also the nephew of Mr. and Mrs. Tallman and he would spend time with his aunt and uncle when time permitted. It just so happened that on his visit in October 1859 he would not only get to see his relatives, but also the future President of the United States. This would be an event that Hanks would never forget; not because of who Lincoln would turn out to be, but from the events that took place that one night Lincoln was at the Tallman’s residence.

Sleeping arrangements that night were tight, and Lincoln and Hanks ended up sharing the same bed which was common among 19th-century travelers. In 1918 Hanks would tell his story about the night he shared a bed with the future president to a reporter from the Madison Democrat.[1] In this article Hanks recalls his difficulty getting to sleep as Lincoln “threw elbows and snored through the night.”

After Abraham Lincoln finished his political speech against Stephen Douglas, he returned to the Tallman house. Hanks at this time also had just returned home and was speaking to his aunt when Lincoln arrived. As Lincoln entered the house, he overheard Mrs. Tallman say to young Lucien that he would have to sleep down stairs in “the lounge” because there was not “a spare bed, but Mr. Lincoln’s.”[2] Lincoln who felt sorry for Hanks offered to share his bed with him. Lincoln remarked with a laugh, “He’s not a very big fellow and won’t take up much room. Let him sleep with me. I think we will get along famously; don’t you?”

Hanks, who recalled being confused on what to think, stood there for several moments not saying anything. As young Lucien looked up he observed his uncle in the other room, Lincoln at this time was not able to see Mr. Tallman, nodding his head “yes” so as not to insult Mr. Lincoln. When Hanks agreed, Lincoln excused himself and went upstairs to his room. Shortly after Lincoln’s departure to bed, Hanks soon followed.

When Lucien Hanks arrived upstairs in the bedroom, Lincoln was already in bed and Hanks wasted no time in crawling in beside Lincoln. Hanks recalled that it wasn’t long before it was obvious that Lincoln was asleep given the “vocal evidence” that came from Lincoln. Not only was Lincoln loud with his snoring, but he also shook violently and tossed and turned constantly. Hanks stated Lincoln would raise his “arms one instant” then “shift his leg” the next. Poor Hanks just was not going to get any sleep that night.[3] Finally after sometime of not sleeping and knowing sleep was not going to come that night, he finally decided to slowly and quietly go downstairs where he was originally going to sleep.

The next morning while everyone else was up, Lincoln was the only one missing. Mrs. Tallman, who started to get concerned about Lincoln, sent Lucien up to check on their guest. Lucien knocked on Lincoln’s bedroom door and instantly the door flew open. There standing in the room, right in front of the young Hanks was Lincoln, in his old “blue stockings with white toes.” Recalling the event, Hanks remembered Lincoln saying, “I haven’t any boots.” Lincoln went on to say, as Mrs. Tallman arrived upstairs that he didn’t want to “cast any aspersions, but when I went to bed last night, I certainly had boots.” Lincoln then stated he would let the issue go if his boots were returned, but he would be unable to leave without boots.

As in his normal humorous way, Lincoln asked “what would the people down home say” if he was to show up without boots? At this time Mrs. Tallman returned downstairs, then shortly returned back upstairs “with the missing articles.”[4]

It was at this time that Lincoln remembered he had set his boots outside his room so they could be cleaned. However, after the boot cleaning, Mrs. Tallman forgot to return them back outside Lincoln’s bedroom door. It was a simple and small mistake, but one that Hanks would recall nearly sixty years later. Abraham Lincoln would leave Janesville, Wisconsin that same day and would never return to Wisconsin again.
 Lucien S. Hanks after graduating college would live in Madison, Wisconsin where he eventually become president of the Wisconsin State Bank. His home where Lucien and his wife lived remained standing until it was torn down in 1966. Lucien Hanks, who had a very memorable and unusual meeting with the future President remained in Wisconsin until he died in 1925.

[1] The Madison Democrat was a newspaper based out of Madison, Wisconsin
[2] The Madison Democrat. August 25th 1918.
[3] Ibid
[4] Ibid

Cold weather duck hunts

One of my favorite months of the year is October. The leaves are turning colors and the outdoor temperature is dropping to the point where you can wear a sweatshirt or light jacket and still be comfortable. Plus for those that hunt, the deer and waterfowl season is in full swing.
While October is great, the cold of November can result in some of the best duck hunting around!

Take for insistence a week before opening weekend of the Wisconsin nine day gun deer season. It had been so cold that many of the larger lakes had frozen over and this was during the migration of mallards was coming down from Canada. This resulted in those large northern birds resting in smaller bodies of water, including creeks that normally would have cooled soon after opening day when the wood ducks leave.
This made for some great duck hunting!

For those that don’t have a dog, no need to worry since many creeks are accessible with a good pair of waders. Warm clothes are a must for this time of year in Wisconsin, especially since you’re the one climbing in and out of the water.
While walking along the winding creek about 100 yards from where I parked the truck, the quiet chilly morning silence was broken by the sound of flushing wings. I was able to raise my 12ga, loaded with number 2 shot fast enough to take one large mallard drake!  Seeing it splash into the water I went after it.

The water came waist level, but it was an easy retrieve and after collecting my prize I worked my way out of the water.  By the time I reached dry land, ice had formed where ever water touched my waders. A good reason why having good gear is so important.
After walking some more and spotting several ducks circling about 150 yards in-front of me, I paused and watched. Seeing them land and after a few seconds of waiting, I began walking toward them. In the distance there was a small bridge and from what I could tell, the ducks were on the other side. As I neared the bridge, I could hear some quacks and further off in the distance came the sound of gunfire.

Hearing this sent what looked like eight mallards scrambling into the air and they headed right at me. I quickly raised my shotgun, took aim and fired twice. I missed the first shot, but was able to connect on the second. The mallard fell and was retrieved within seconds. I watched as the others continued to fly and soon after they seemed to disappear.

Walking downstream a little farther proved to be nothing more than exercise. I decided to head back to the truck and with some luck, was hoping to run into more resting ducks. There were a few pockets where two or three would fly up, but were well out of range.
Jump shooting was something I always did every year, but have never hunted in this area before. So not really knowing what to expect, it was a nice surprise. After seeing and hearing reports of lakes having “large amounts” of ice on them and stumbling across this creek was an accident on my part that paid off.

Not many people in my neck of the woods tend to give jump shooting ducks much credit and most seem to think you have to hit large rivers or lakes in order to be productive. Well ducks need water and when the ice forms and there is no place for ducks to land, what are they going to do? The answer is where ever there is open water.
So next time you are invited to jump shoot creeks for ducks, remember when it gets cold ducks will flock to where open water can be found. Don’t overlook smaller creeks thinking they will be “unproductive” because you may just find some large northern mallards.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Elizabeth Stride: Not one of Jacks

(The discovery of Elizabeth Stride’s body. The Pictorial News, 6th October 1888)

There are many myths surrounding the infamous Whitechapel murders that it can be over whelming when trying to sort out fact from fiction. Just who was Jack the Ripper? Was he a local mad man? A member of the Royal house? Or possibly an American doctor?

These are questions that in reality have never been answered and most probably may never be. The legend of Jack the Ripper and his horrifying events that took place in late 1888 brought national attention to the destitute conditions of London’s East end. Regardless of the attention there are many questions that remain unanswered.

 One question is how many victims can Jack the Ripper truly claim? The original police file, which still exists name eleven victims.  Many are easily dismissed by historians as being killed by someone other than Jack the Ripper. There are two victims that stand out as not being the work of the Ripper. They are Mary Kelly and Elizabeth Stride.

The large volume of primary sources have been over the years accessed and gone through hundreds of times. Not all by serious researchers either. Some of the sources have been twisted to fit ones theory, while others have been completely ignored by some. While most authors on the subject have their own ideas who the ripper was and how many he killed, the problem is, it’s only speculation.

 While the idea presented is not all new, it is the hope of this author to present some of the known facts and well thought out theories about the murder Elizabeth Stride. Was Stride a true victim of Jack the Ripper or was poor Liz a victim of a domestic dispute that went too far?

 It is not my attempt here to write a biography about Elizabeth “Long Liz” Stride, but the goal is to bring attention to the fact that she most likely was not a ripper victim. There are those that will not agree, but with some thought, maybe some people will also see that Long Liz was actually named a victim of the Whitechapel murder simply because of the timeframe when she was murdered.

 Elizabeth Stride was killed sometime between 12:45 a.m. to 12:55 a.m. on the morning September 30, 1888. She was to become known as the third victim of Jack the Ripper, but was she? Stride’s body was found in Dutfields Yard, located on Berner Street by Louis Diemschutz as he drove his horse and cart into the yard. Diemschutz’s pony shied away “at some object on the right.”[1] Diemschutz bent over and struck a match to see what was blocking his way. It was the body of a female, lying on her left side, her face looking towards the right wall.

 From what Diemschutz could tell, the woman had not been dead long and one would think he just missed the murderer by a matter of minutes. Some authors have even suggested the murder was lurking in the shadows watching until he was able to make good his escape.

The victim’s throat had been cut. There was no other mutilation to her body. Theory has it, the Ripper was interrupted and was not able to continue on with his grotesquely deeds. Diemschutz then went into the International Workmen’s club to find his wife. He found her on the ground floor along with other members of the club. The other members were then notified of what was found.

 At this time Diemschutz did not know if the woman he found was “drunk or dead.” He then stated, “I then got a candle and went into the yard, where I could see blood before I reached the body.”[2]  He told the coroner he did not touch the body and then ran off to find the police. When no policeman was found, Diemschutz started shouting “police” in hopes someone would hear him. Along with a man whom Diemschutz met in Grove Street, they returned to where the body lied and it was then discovered that Stride’s throat was cut.

 The police arrived shortly after this discovery.

 Police Constable Henry Lamb and another officer were notified of the murder while they patrolled in Commercial Road. They ran to Berner Street and upon arriving at the scene the two police officers urged the crowd to keep away and asked someone to fetch a doctor. When Dr. Blackwell arrived it was apparent there was no hope for the victim.[3]

 The police did what they could to not let anyone leave the area until they could be questioned and the place searched. When asked by a juror if anyone could have left the crime scene after the discovery of the body and before the police arrived, Diemschutz answered “oh yes.” One has to see it was possible that Stride’s killer was watching in the shadows while Diemschutz examined the body, then left for help.

 Twenty minutes after the police were summoned Dr. Frederick William Blackwell arrived on scene. According to Blackwell, it was 1:16 a.m. Dr. Blackwell described the scene: “the deceased was lying on her left side obliquely across the passage, her face looking towards the right wall. Her legs were drawn up, her feet close against the wall of the right side of the passage. Her head was resting beyond the carriage-wheel rut, the neck lying over the rut. Her feet were three yards from the gateway. Her dress was unfastened at the neck. The neck and chest were quite warm, as were also the legs, and the face was slightly warm.”[4]

 Since the body was still warm it is obvious Diemschutz arrived on the scene within seconds of the murder taking place. Regarding how long Stride had been dead, Dr. Blackwell stated, “from twenty minutes to half an hour” from when he arrived. He also added Stride’s clothes were not yet wet from the rain. This puts Strides murder between 12:46 a.m. and 12:56 a.m.     

 Dr. Blackwell also said Stride’s left arm was extended from the elbow, the hand clutching a packet of cachous. Cachous are breath sweeteners used by prostitutes and smokers. The packet of cachous was found between the thumb and forefinger and were almost hidden. It should also be pointed out that some of the cachous had been spilled into a nearby gutter. This is an indication Stride was pushed or thrown to the ground.

 Elizabeth Stride was wearing a scarf on the night she was murdered. The scarf had been pulled tight and turned to the left on her neck. The lower edge of the scarf was frayed, as could be expected if cut by a sharp knife. Her throat was deeply cut and below the angle of the right jaw there was what appeared to be an abrasion on the skin. The windpipe was also severed.

 There were also bruises on the victim’s shoulders and chest and this too indicated Stride had been grabbed and forced to the ground. Her throat was most likely cut while on the ground since there was no evidence of any blood splash on the right wall. Dr. Blackwell mentioned Stride had a few small spots of blood on the back of her hand so the chances are probable Stride was on the ground.

 Around 4:30 a.m. the body was transported to St George’s Mortuary in Cable Street. Evidence started to emerge shortly after and police started taking statements.

William Marshall, who was a laborer, had seen a woman whom he later identified as Stride. He claimed he saw her with a stout and decently dressed middle-aged man. The man was 5 feet, 6inches tall and was wearing a black cutaway coat.

 Marshall claims the man had nothing in his hands and was not wearing any gloves. He wore a cap that made him look like a sailor. The man was observed by Marshall kissing Long Liz and was heard saying “you would say anything but your prayers.”

 William Smith, a police officer was sure he saw Stride in Berner Street around 12:30 a.m. Officer Smith said Stride was talking to a man opposite from where the murder occurred.

 The man described by Smith matches that of William Marshall. Officer Smith said the man was “respectable appearance.” However, this man was observed holding a parcel or newspaper. The man was wearing an overcoat and dark trousers. He also had a hard felt deerstalker hat on.

Morris Eagle, a member of the Jewish Club, had returned to Dutfield’s Yard around 12:40 a.m. and there was no body found. This proves Dr. Blackwell was correct when he estimated Stride’s time of death.

Now comes one of the more important witnesses to the Stride killing. This witness was a Hungarian Jew named Israel Schwartz. He stated at 12:45 a.m. he saw a man stop and speak to a woman who was standing in the gateway where the murder was committed.

The man Schwartz saw tried pulling the woman into the street, then turned her around and threw her down.[5] Schwartz then crossed to the opposite side of the street. It was there Schwartz observed a second man standing lighting his pipe. At this time, the man who threw the woman down yelled out “Lipski!” The name Lipski was considered an insult by the Jewish community.

 Schwartz then began to run away and was followed a short distance by the second man with the
pipe. The man did not follow a long distance according to Schwartz. Schwartz could not say if the two men were together, but he gave descriptions for both men. This is a key piece of evidence that indicates Stride’s Killer was not the same man seen by William Marshall or PC Smith. The man seen throwing Stride down was described as “aged about thirty, 5ft.5in.tall, with dark hair and a small brown moustache.”[6] The man was wearing a dark jacket and trousers and a black peaked hat.

The second man had light brown hair and was wearing a dark overcoat and a black hard felt hat. He was also observed with a pipe. Based on this description, one can think the second man with the pipe was the same man seen with Stride earlier in the night. The second man who was seen throwing Stride down is no doubt her killer.

 Could it be that Stride and the man with the pipe were walking together when someone Stride knew came along? Maybe it was someone Stride knew had a bad temper and instead of seening a fight between the two, she told the better dressed man to walk away.

 While Stride was speaking with the one man, trying to calm him down, the other man stood and watched. While waiting he lite his pipe, which was observed by Schwartz. However, when the fight between Stride and her attacker became physical, Stride’s friend, along with Schwartz, ran.

 Just who was the angry man attacking Stride? Why did the better dressed man with the pipe run instead of helping? Maybe it is because the man was married or was a member of higher society and did not want to become involved with a matter that would involve the police?

From the evidence available, it seems likely Stride was not killed by Jack the Ripper; rather she was a victim of domestic violence by her former companion, Michael Kidney.

 It has been suggested by more than one author that Kidney was Stride’s killer. No, Kidney was not Jack the Ripper, but there is a chance he was a murder.

 The evidence surrounding Stride’s murder can be confusing when read. However, when finished reading the inquest testimony, one cannot help but think it was a domestic attack.

 On the Tuesday before Stride’s murder, she left Kidney and it is said he was a brutal man, a heavy drinker and laborer who was known to have assaulted Stride. He claimed the last time he had seen Stride was September 25, when she left him. Kidney claimed at the inquest he expected to find her at home when he returned from work that night.

 However, Catherine Lane, who gave testimony at Stride’s inquest countered Kidney’s claim when she said Elizabeth Stride told her she in fact left Kidney after a fight. Kidney of course denied this, but it is obvious the two had their share of problems. He admitted that out of the years they have been living together, she had actually lived away from him for around five months.

 Michael Kidney, a drunk with a violent streak had been jailed for his abuse in July 1888. He had also been in trouble before that for the same type of incident. In 1887 Stride went as far as having him arrested, however she failed to show up for court and the charges against him were dropped. One can assume Stride feared what Kidney would do to her after he got out of jail had she testified. Out of fear, she went back to him and the abuse continued.

 Michael Kidney may have been angry with Stride on the night she was killed. He may have come home, found she was not there and went out looking for her. Kidney may have been drinking by the time he came across Stride with the other man and in an angry violent rage, murdered Elizabeth Stride.

 One indication of the possibility Stride knew her attacker was the fact she never dropped the cachous she held in her hand. Dr. Blackwell stated he found a packet of them, “between the thumb and forefinger.” He also pointed out some had been spilled into a nearby gutter. It can be assumed if the attacker was not known, Stride would have wanted both hands free to defend herself with. This was not the case though.

The most incriminating part of the puzzle against Kidney was on the morning of the murder, he went to the Leman Street Police Station drunk. He was ranting about Stride’s death and how incapable the police were in finding the killer. The problem Kidney faces here is how did he know it was Stride who had been killed?

 According to The Times of Tuesday, October 2, 1888 Elizabeth Stride had not yet been identified. The Coroner, Wynne E. Baxter asked during the inquest, “is the body identified yet?”  Inspector Edmond Reid answered, “Not yet.”

 The Times on the same day also reported the inquest testimony of Mrs. Mary Malcolm. She states “I have seen the body of my sister, Elizabeth Watts.”[7] The Coroner then asked, “You have no doubt about that?” Mrs. Malcolm answered, “Not the slightest.”[8]

 While Mrs. Malcolm was wrong in her identification, the fact remains that Stride was not known to the world as anything but Elizabeth Watts. Stride in fact was not even identified correctly until a few days later. There is no physical evidence linking Kidney to the murder of Stride, there is some strong coincidences that cannot be ignored.

 It’s clear that Elizabeth Stride was not a victim of Jack the Ripper, but a casualty of domestic violence which was so common in the East end. Michael Kidney was not the Ripper and he was not responsible for any more of the Whitechapel Murders but he is guilty of at least one murder on September, 30 1888.








[1] The Daily Telegraph (October 2, 1888).
[2] ibid
[3] Evans, Stewart P. and Keith Skinner. The Ultimate Jack the Ripper Companion, New York, Carroll & Graf, 2000.
[4] The Daily Telegraph (October 3, 1888).
[5] Evans, Stewart P. and Keith Skinner. The Ultimate Jack the Ripper Companion.
[6] ibid
[7] Evans, Stewart P. and Keith Skinner. The Ultimate Jack the Ripper Companion.
[8] ibid