Jack The Ripper

1) What can you learn from Source A about the murders of Martha Tabram and Polly Nicholls?

Source A shows that both murders took place in the East End; however they ‘startled’ all of London due to their unfamiliarity. Victims were extremely poor which suggests they may be prostitutes proving the murders to seem irrational. In comparison to the common murders of the time, they appeared motiveless as no money was taken, leading the murders to be feared further as well as inexplicable.

Both murders took place within a month of each other and contained ‘extraordinary violence’, which created links to the Ripper being a ‘serial killer’. However, this may have been exaggerated by the press, as the article lacked in detail, and it may have been used as a force for the government to take action. As murders were motiveless and peculiarly violent, Ripper was suggested as a ‘demented being’, implying he was insane, or in religious overtone, he was possessed, this was used as a common reason to criminal offences that took place at the time.

2) Does the evidence of Source C support the evidence of Sources A and B about the Ripper murders? Explain your answer.

Source C disagrees with source A several times; however it greatly supports source B due to their purpose. All sources express differences, they all show that the murders lack in motive.

Source C is a clinically precise, analytical Doctor’s report, which inspects the injuries and causes of death; whereas Source A is a newspaper article. It’s vague, and aims to sell papers and sensationalise the murders. Source C mentions the murderer’s skill; ‘long incision’ implies surgical accuracy and hints the murder is pre-planned as the victim is left holding expensive breath-fresheners, suggesting the murderer had money, which could be used to attract the victim.

C implies the murders weren’t messy but very precise. In comparison, A label’s Ripper as ‘demented’, removing the idea of professional relevance. While A recognises the immense effort, it suggests the murders are brutal, presenting them as clumsy and spontaneous. The detail of positioning in Source C suggests a sexual motive, which could be because victims were prostitutes, as is suggested in Source A. These differences could be because both sources discuss different murders. Both C and A show the murders as motiveless as no money was taken, further suggesting the wealth of the murderer.

Sources C and B are professional reports, therefore both are analytical. However source B makes links with evidence and suspicions, while C focuses on the physical evidence. Like Source C, B also mentions the skill and knowledge used in the murder, and suggests it was pre-planned as no meaningless action was taken; it recognises that the murderer had surgical knowledge as is implied in C. Source B compares Chapman’s death to the Tabram murder; Chapman’s seems more precise like Elizabeth Stride’s but no comparison is drawn. Similarly source A also shows Tabram’s murder as violent, this emphasises the skill used in the murders of Chapman and Stride.

3) How useful are Sources D and E in helping you to understand why the Ripper was able to avoid capture?

Source D is unhelpful to the police as it is given from an indecisive eye witness, who may feel inclined to give evidence for her own personal safety. Consequently the evidence is helpful as it unintentionally prevents the Ripper’s capture. The source elucidates the problems of eye-witness accounts, although Long’s intentions appear truthful, it is vague and very uncertain, ‘I cannot be sure’. Long hinted that the Ripper may be a ‘foreigner’ this is not helpful as many Whitechapel citizens were immigrants. Due to the hazy evidence provided, Long failed to narrow the police search, and may have potentially misled them in their search to capture the Ripper.

Source E appears helpful as it has lengthy descriptions about both Whitechapel and police inefficiency. However, it is from a newspaper, therefore the information is probably sensualised; ‘apocalypse of evil’ is both farfetched and vague. The article is stereotypical, the evidence and criticism about the police is typical, showing no proof or specific relevance to the particular Ripper case. The information seems to have come from an ‘informant’, this limits the facts of the article, as the informant could be a literary devise for credibility. The article states the police force’s weaknesses, however much of the criticism stated is of the police’s actions before the first murder even took place. Though the Whitechapel information is basic, it provides a foundation for historian of Ripper’s advantages.

Reading both sources, the police forces weakness and eye-witness problems are highlighted. They are slightly more useful together as they combine the factors offering Ripper’s success, where indecisive witness accounts are often misleading, causing more problems in the already poor police force.

Source D is more useful than Source E as it highlights a major problem the police faced when looking for the Ripper. It shows a specific case, whereas E shows usual issues which could be applied to all crimes of the time.

4) Use sources F and G, and your own knowledge, to explain how the police tried to catch Jack the Ripper.

Source F shows the police used leaflets to gain information, which shows their reliance on voluntary information. The phrase ‘Should you know of any person to whom suspicion is attached’, suggests the police profiled suspects from Whitechapel, by their appearance as well as actions. The degeneration theory was a belief of the time; therefore the police may have unintentionally made references to it. Lombroso theory, suggested that criminals had certain physical features, a practice which may have been used lazily at the time. However the leaflet was not their primary method as it was used after 3 murders had taken place without a solution, therefore this hints a level of desperation in their manner. They were not accustomed to solving crimes of this nature, and their main aims were of prevention. In order to do this, they increased patrols on the streets, they turned to following suspects, and using disguises to catch suspects in the act. However this practice was unsuccessful.

The Home Secretary states that the police had not used the reward system for years, however the rewards were offered for the first two murders, showing that the Home Secretary (source G) is not very reliable. The false information could be because the HS was isolating itself from poor practice, or the police force was violating the HS’ laws. However, the source implies the police’s dependency on local help in patrolling, and how false information could seriously mislead them.

As suggested by both source F and G, the police relied heavily on witness accounts. These accounts were used to assist the police in drawing conclusions, such as the Ripper’s appearance and nature. Police interviewed various lodgers, collecting much information. However, standard police methods were still in practice, and solid evidence was often disregarded.

Forensic evidence was being used by looking into reports and examinations given by coroners and doctors, this included footprints and measuring victim’s bodies, appealing for characteristics the Ripper could be associated with. Though these practices were not most advanced, they potentially portrayed the police with much evidence. Obvious evidence was left behind at the fifth murder; however the police had the evidence destroyed as quickly as possible. Thus, some evidence was destroyed before being used.

Though some police practices remained standard, others were more advanced. Main methods were, increased patrols, forensic research, taking in public accounts and posting leaflets, when combined there main aims were not only to gather information but to prevent these happenings from occurring.

5) ‘The police were to blame for not catching Jack the Ripper.’

Use the sources and your own knowledge to explain whether you agree with this view.

The police were not completely liable for not catching Jack the Ripper. The lack of forensic evidence, inaccurate information gathered and the nature of Whitechapel delayed their progress in capturing the Ripper. This could be argued at their inability to innovate new methods, however when considering the circumstances, and the fact that it was one of the first serial the police had to investigate, the criticism could be dismissed.

As suggested by source F the police strongly relied on the information offered by the public, this resulted in much false information, such as receiving large numbers of letters from people claiming to be Jack the Ripper. While these forms of information were clearly false, much evidence was purely inaccurate due to hesitant and unsure eye witnesses, as is clearly shown in source D. The misleading information forced the police to follow many different paths, thus slowing down their search of the Ripper. In comparison, source E shows the police force negatively and states that they dealt feebly with evidence and information provided. Though this may be true to a certain extent, the source is taken from a local newspaper article and is probably exaggerated.

Many of the inaccurate accounts could be the result of the nature of Whitechapel. Though source E is sensualised it provides a basic understanding of Whitechapel at the time, ‘narrow, dark, and crooked lanes’, proving that observations would be difficultly made. These characteristics can be blamed on the home office, affecting the police as the general public were filled with fear, thus resulting in deterring and unclear evidence. Despite this, Whitechapel was a congested, crime filled area, as is shown in source I, this added further difficultly for the police, as it was uneasy to draw conclusions. Adding to all the contributing factors, the relations between public and police were not very strong; therefore many people may have felt uncomfortable in helping the police in their search. Source J shows the location of which Annie Chapman was murdered and left behind, when considering the location in regards to source F, the likelihood of people witnessing aspects of the murder would not be doubtful.

The police also used forensic evidence to further their search; they studied coroners and doctors reports, as is shown in sources B and C. However the time in which the murders took place meant that scientific knowledge was not particularly advanced or practiced, so their means of gaining evidence was very basic. While forensic evidence was becoming important, there was very little concept of DNA testing and many walls were often white washed, diminishing all evidence which may have been present. These mistakes are now considered very basic; however this was one of the first serial killers the police had to deal with.

In terms of general crime the police aimed to prevent it, therefore they had to adapt their methods in order to catch the criminal. However, many standard methods were still used such as increasing patrols on streets, and dressing as prostitutes to catch the Ripper, these practices did not prove successful but were carried out due to the lack of method adaption. They also attempted to prevent murders, however sources H and A highlight an aspect of difficulty the police faced. Both sources state the peculiar manner of the murders and the lack of motive behind it. Not only was this a type of case foreign to the police, but the murders were very structured, providing the police with limited direct evidence.

Although many standard methods remained, the police tried different methods, such as gathering eye witness information, and forensic evidence; however various factors slowed down the potential success of their new methods, such as the nature of Whitechapel, the premature scientific basis and the immensity of the crime.

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