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

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