And so it begins…on August 31, 1888, Mary Ann Nichols was murdered in Whitechapel, London. She was the first known victim of one of the most famous serial killers in history: Jack the Ripper.
Nichols was last seen alive by her roommate at 2:30 a.m. the morning she died. Her body was found only an hour later in front of a stable entrance in Buck’s Row by a cart driver. He fetched a policeman, who found two others walking their beats, and called for a surgeon, Dr. Llewellyn, who arrived around 4 a.m. He determined that her throat had been slit twice and her abdomen slashed with one deep jagged wound and several more cuts and incisions caused by a 6-8 inch knife.
Local inspectors took on the case and found that nobody in the area had seen or heard anything unusual that night. Rumors of a serial killer started to circulate (the press connected Nichols’s death with the earlier murders of two other women), and Scotland Yard stepped in, assigning Detective Inspectors Frederick Abberline, Henry Moore, and Walter Andrews to the case.
An inquest into Nichols’s death was opened, and found that her murder was not connected to the two earlier ones. However, by the time the inquest had adjourned on September 24, the Ripper had struck again. Annie Chapman was found with her throat and abdomen slashed on September 8. Due to the similarities of the two murders, the police concluded they must have been committed by the same person. The Chapman and Nichols murder cases were combined.
Only a week after the inquest into Nichols’s murder closed, Elizabeth Stride and Catherine Eddowes joined the list of Ripper victims. Both were discovered with their throats cut on September 30. Things quieted down for a while, and then Mary Jane Kelly was found dead on November 9. She is the last known victim of the Ripper, and although an extensive investigation was launched (and continues to this day, for some people), his identity has never been conclusively determined.