‘On the Trail of Jack the Ripper’ by Richard Charles Cobb


I’ve had a fascination with the Jack the Ripper mystery for years. Well, unsolved mysteries generally which started with the disappearance of the Princes in the Tower, and the death of Amy Robsart. But the Jack the Ripper mystery is a lot gorier and more disturbing.

This book discusses the five canonical victims in detail, especially the locations connected with each murder and how they relate to London as it is now. There are lots of helpful maps plotting London as it was in 1888 over the street layout today. The sad thing is that many of the streets and locations have now been lost, many in the last decade or two with building works. I went on a Jack the Ripper tour in Whitechapel last year with a friend and it’s amazing how little actually remains, so those locations that do remain are more significant in a way.

Richard Charles Cobb discusses each of the canonical murders, but also discusses the other Whitechapel murders not always considered to be his work (there were 11 in total in the files). It was really interesting to read some of the newspaper articles, the alleged writing of the Ripper, and police reports and memorandum – words spoken or written at the time. Cobb doesn’t really go into suspects, so I think that might be what I’ll look for in my next book on the Jack the Ripper mystery. I want to know more.

Be aware if you buy this book that there are images of the dead women; including the wounds inflicted on the last canonical victim, which are just horrifying. Some authors I know choose not to show the images in their books or put them in a spread in the middle so you can just jump past them, but these images are set into the text so just a trigger warning, though I imagine if you’re reading a book on Jack the Ripper you might be aware of the images!

Jack the Ripper Walking Tour


While I was in London with a friend back in November we went on a Jack the Ripper walking tour in Whitechapel. It’s something that had been on my bucket list for a while, and I was so excited when I finally got to do it. They’re obviously popular as we saw three other tours when we were out as well! Jack the Ripper is one of those enduring historical mysteries that is still fascinating today, and there is such a long list of suspects of who might have done it, including royalty, artists, Polish Jews, and authors. The fact that the murders were never solved gives infinite scope for people to come up with their own suspect.

It was so interesting to see the places where the murders took place, even if they have changed a lot in the over a hundred years since they happened. It really gives a sense of place and atmosphere, and the layout of the streets is interesting to understand how the murderer was able to get away and avoid the police on the streets.

Jack the Ripper killed five women between August and November 1888, possibly more but five are accepted as canonical victims – Mary Ann ‘Polly’ Nichols on 31st August, Annie Chapman on 8th September, Elizabeth Stride and Catherine Eddowes on 30th September, and Mary Jane Kelly on 9th November. Although I think that a prior victim in early August 1888 was actually a Ripper victim as well – Martha Tabram.

The Ripper walking tour took in Osbourne Street, Hanbury Street, the Ten Bells pub, Goulston Street, Dorset Street, and Mitre Square. Osbourne Street was the location of the murder of Emma Smith, which happened before that of Martha Tabram and isn’t generally considered to be a Ripper murder but is included in the Whitechapel murder sequence. Hanbury Street was the location of the murder of Annie Chapman, although the exact building no longer survives. The Ten Bells pub still survives today although it did go through a period in the 1980s of being renamed the Jack the Ripper pub. Goulston Street was the location of the infamous graffiti which was left after the murder of Catherine Eddowes, and where part of her apron was dropped after the murderer wiped his knife on it. Dorset Street was the location of the murder of the Ripper’s final canonical victim, Mary Jane Kelly. Mitre Square was the location of the fourth murder, the second of the double night; that of Catherine Eddowes.

Although many of these locations have drastically changed since the 1880s, the atmosphere of the East End is still there and you can still get a sense of what it would have been like for these women living on the streets or in boarding houses, packed together. George Yard, where Elizabeth Stride was murdered, is now Gunthorpe Street. Bucks Row, where Polly Nichols was murdered, is now Durward Street.

Big thanks to our tour guide, Angie, who was so knowledgeable and such an engaging person to tell this gruesome tale. Visit the website to book a tour of your own if you’re ever in London!

Jack The Ripper Tour – The Original London Terror Walk (jack-the-ripper-tour.com)

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