In The Bank Holiday Murders I draw many historical connections between the various victims. Some or all of the connections may be entirely irrelevant to the discovery of their killer’s identity, but even if it’s of purely academic interest I find such connections fascinating.
On page 150 I wrote: ‘The Britannia was a favorite watering hole for the women of Dorset Street. Not only did Annie Chapman drink there, but so did Mary Kelly. It was said they knew each other. And if Chapman knew Kelly, then so would have Cooper, Pearly Poll, and possibly Polly Nichols.’
At the time of writing the book I practically drove myself wiggy trying to find the source for Chapman having known Kelly. It had been years since I read it, but surely something so interesting would be easy to find, right? It must be sourced in a dozen books and discussed on multiple threads at Casebook and forums. Perhaps it is, but if so, these sources completely evaded me and I was forced with the choice of either omitting it for my book or including the detail without a source. I obviously went with the latter, prefacing it with the pathetically vague ‘it was said’. However, researcher and fellow Ripperphile Jerry Dunlop came across the piece above while panning the papers for nuggets of gold. He certainly found one.
Jerry posted the find to Jtrforums.com, which is owned and moderated by one of the most dogged Ripper researchers I’ve ever seen – Howard Brown. He’s so busy singing the praises of others that it’s easy to forget how much awesome stuff Howard finds. I’ve been reminded of his tenacity keen eye repeatedly while writing my upcoming Whitechapel Confidential, so I thought I’d use a bit of this space to shout out ‘Thanks’ to Howard for all he’s done for Ripperology over the last decade.
Regarding the snippet from the Echo above that proclaims a friendship between the two Ripper victims, it should be pointed out that this is only proof that a reporter in 1888 had this printed in a paper, and is not proof that it is actually true. No source for the information is given, and anyone who’s studied the press in the 48 hours following the Kelly murder knows that there’s a lot more chaff than wheat. Having said that, it’s perfectly reasonable that the two were friends, or at least knew each other, and this article provides a contemporary source linking the two. As we also know from other sources, published in The Bank Holiday Murders, Chapman also knew Pearly Poll, who was allegedly fast friends with Martha Tabram, and Polly Nichols spent her last days living at 35 Dorset Street with Annie Chapman. The ladies of Flower and Dean Street – Liz Stride and Catherine Eddowes – seem to be the odd women out in this ever tightening web of acquaintanceship. But who knows what will turn up next? – Tom Wescott