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The True Crime Writings of Tom Wescott

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The Annie Chapman/Mary Kelly Connection

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

 

 

Polly Nichols’s Death Certificate

In my book, The Bank Holiday Murders, I followed a bloody trail that led from George Street – where no less than four women had been attacked and murdered – to Dorset Street, where shady witness, Pearly Poll, had moved just prior to the murder of Martha Tabram. It was 35 Dorset Street where Annie  Chapman would call home and it was revealed in my book that this was also the final home of Mary Ann Nichols. This information has been public on the internet for at least a decade, though oddly absent from new literature on the case. Death certificates are official documents prepared by the coroner based on information provided by the police. Here we have the first two ‘canonical’ victims of Jack the Ripper living together, and only doors down from where final ‘canonical’ victim, Mary Kelly, was living and plying her trade. Is this coincidence? Possibly.  Between November of 1887 and August of 1888, four women residing at neighboring houses, 18 and 19 George Street, were assaulted, and three of them were murdered. This cannot and should not be accepted as coincidence. The Bank Holiday Murders is the first and, at the time of writing, only book to focus in on these early murders. It attempts to follow leads and draw links based on the scant evidence available to us today. Whether or not a reader finds my personal opinions valid, it should not be lost that Emily Horsnell, Margaret Hames, Emma Smith, and Martha Tabram are the earliest known victims of the Whitechapel Murderer, and therefore their cases offer us the best possible clues towards identifying him.

 

The Berner Street Mystery

I’ve been slaving away on my new Ripper book, Whitechapel Confidential, which I’m quite excited about as the follow-up to 2014’s The Bank Holiday Murders. A big part of the book will focus on the myths and mysteries surrounding the murder of Elizabeth Stride in Dutfield’s Yard off Berner Street. Was she a victim of Jack the Ripper? Is it true that she was killed by a knife quite different from that used 45 minutes later on Catherine Eddowes? Could one of the many witnesses have actually been her killer? Did she and her killer really purchase grapes from erstwhile fruitier, Matthew Packer? And what of her brutish one-again-off-again boyfriend, Michael Kidney? What might he have known about his long-time lover’s fate? These and many, many topics will be tackled within the pages of Whitechapel Confidential. And keep an eye here for more to come soon.

Tom

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