Behind all the movies and TV dramas documenting the never-ending speculation over the identity of Jack the Ripper, it’s all too easy to forget that regardless of the man behind the myth, his five confirmed victims were real women, with real lives, who suffered very real and brutal deaths at his hands.
The first and fourth of his victims, Mary Ann ‘Polly’ Nicholls and Catherine Eddowes, were buried in communal graves in the City of London Cemetery in Manor Park, East London, not far from where I live. Today, two small round plaques laid in the ground either side of a pathway mark the general area of their last resting places – single flowers are often placed there by passers-by who realise the significance of the names.
Second victim Annie Chapman was buried by her family in Manor Park Cemetery, and third victim Elizabeth ‘Long Liz’ Stride was buried in East London Cemetery.
And his fifth and final victim Mary Jane Kelly, also known as Marie Jeanette Kelly, was buried in St Patrick’s Roman Catholic Cemetery here in Leytonstone. Although the small grave marker that exists today is not the original, and may no longer even indicate the exact spot of her burial, again flowers are often left in her memory.
Five real women living in dire poverty in London’s notorious East End in the late 1880s, all for varying reasons down on their luck with no-one to help support them, all brutally murdered by a madman over a period of a few short months well over a hundred years ago, all now sadly lost in the myths of time…