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What "Evidence" Could I Use In A Lesson?

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  • What "Evidence" Could I Use In A Lesson?

    Hello everyone,

    One reason I joined this forum, as well as my interest in the case and a family connection to Whitechapel, is that I'm a History teacher.

    Over the past few years I've been working on a little mini-project that my students undertake. The Ripper suits this very well - History is about argument construction and evidence use, and there's no "wrong answer" per se, just answers that aren't supported particularly well (if at all.) What better way to explore that, than in a topic with no universally acknowledged answer?

    The project involves students being given the rudiments of the Ripper killings (I provide the details in a slightly altered form, as I'll mention below), and some details about Whitechapel generally. They then have to decide a motive for the killing (and the only two they're allowed is that either prostitutes are easy targets, or that JtR was "down on whores".) Then they get the text of the three letters that generate the most interest to those who study the case - Dear Boss, Saucy Jack and From Hell. From these they begin to establish what kind of an individual they think the killer was. Then they get evidence, and witness statements, judge their reliability, and then ultimately are handed a list of 12 potential suspects, from which they pick the one most likely based on what they've argued from the evidence. Overall, it's quite fun, and it's open to numerous different conclusions.

    This year, I separated the letters into one part of the investigation and the other evidence into the second part, largely because it allows more detailed study. The idea is that, like the letters, I want to give the students three potential pieces of evidence to examine, and judge the validity of. I've got two pieces - the Goulston Street Graffiti and the Whitechapel Road knife. I need a third!

    I would welcome suggestions as to what the third piece could be. I considered the Lusk "kidne" but the problem with that is that if a student has already discounted the "from hell" letter, there's no merit at all in examining the kidney.

    My students are 14 years old so won't deal easily with involved coroner's reports and such like, and ideally I'd like a piece of actual, physical "evidence". Witness statements are dealt with in separate lessons, so they're also out. The Whitechapel Road knife almost certainly wasn't part of the killings but I include it because, at a HUGE push, it may have been. Something of a similar authenticity value or higher would be fine.

    Any suggestions would be gratefully received!

    In order to make the topic manageable in the time allocated to it, I've had to tell the students that certain things are unquestionable, so any "evidence" that primarily serves to ask questions about any of the following assumptions can't be used (these don't necessarily reflect my views, but it's essential to give some sort of starting direction to their investigations!)

    1. The killer worked alone.
    2. The killer only killed the "canonical five".
    3. The killer killed both victims of the "double event".

    Any ideas, anyone?!

    Thanks in advance.

  • #2

    If you're already using the GSG, then there are some other messages connected to the case, written in chalk allegedly from the killer;-

    Message in Hanbury Street - “It is currently reported in Hanbury-street that this morning the following paragraph, written in chalk, was seen upon the wall of one of the back gardens there, and four persons distinctly stated they had actually seen the writing. The words are, "I have now done three, and intend to do nine more and give myself up, and at the same time give my reasons for doing the murders." Whether there is any truth in the matter remains to be seen.” - Echo 8 Sept. 1889

    Message in Kingsland Road - The police in this case* state that they noticed when they went on duty on Thursday night they saw a very long chalk mark on the pavement in Kingsland-road, one directing point coming to the word "Look!" and, further on, "I am Leather Apron. Five more, and I will give myself up." Beneath this was a rude drawing of a man with a knife uplifted towards a woman. - Evening Standard 29 Sept. 1888

    * the case concerned was an incident involving a man with a “long knife” and two women, however Kingsland road is not actually in Whitechapel but it was in J-division territory, the division that dealt with the Buck's-row murder.


    • #3
      Hi Syrius

      Thank you so much for telling us about your class and asking us for advice. I do wish you the best of luck with the class and hope that it will prove to be a worthwhile learning experience for your students.

      I can see why you chose the letters and the Whitechapel Road knife although you have to know that it's unknown whether the letters or indeed the knife have anything to do with the murders even though ostensibly there may have been an apparent link both for the letters and that knife.

      The one line of enquiry that you might pursue to add to what you already have might have to do with the murder locations. For example, I would suggest that the short time span between the Stride murder and the Eddowes murder on the night of the Double Event might offer something to examine, if we agree that the murders on that night could have been committed by the same hand. Similarly, given the witness statements, the short span of time when Annie Chapman was killed in the backyard of 29 Hanbury Street, from the time she was last seen alive to the discovery of her body by Richardson, or the time between Joseph Lawende and his two companions in Duke Street seeing Catherine Eddowes with a man in St. James Passage until her murder in Mitre Square.

      Best regards

      Christopher T. George
      Organizer, RipperCon #JacktheRipper-#True Crime Conference
      just held in Baltimore, April 7-8, 2018.
      For information about RipperCon, go to
      RipperCon 2018 talks can now be heard at


      • #4
        Hi Syrius

        Re physical objects, since you're including the knife (for the sake of the project) I suppose you may as well include the shawl, though it's a highly technical scientific matter and your class would probably not take much interest in it.

        The one certain physical clue that Jack did leave was the apron piece, but I imagine you're including that with the graffiti.

        Perhaps the third object could be the purported and highly controversial Diary of Jack the Ripper?


        • #5
          Hi Syrius I bet the kids will enjoy your lesson.
          My ancestor wrote about the case (he was a detective) and described following the man that at that time they mostly thought was Jack. He gives a described walk but with no street names that would be fun to try and work out where he actually walked.
          However if this is inappropriate something on the lines of a map ie; police beat at murder scenes might assist them pinpointing a time of the attack?
          Or mapping of murder scenes.
          I can give you a copy of his following the Jack suspect if you need it at any point, just let me know.



          • #6
            the photos

            i see your problem Syrius since most of the evidence exists only within the casebook. Graffiti is a good suggestion but may tie in more with the letters and correspondence discussion. You may want to steer clear of the gsg due to the anti-semitic or otherwise terminology. My best suggestion depends on whether you consider the Mary Jane Kelly photos to be PG13 or NC17. You might start a discussion on how photos can be source material and evidence. You might do an analysis of the doctor,s post mortem examination against the mjk1 image as a comparative, showing how source material can be used in conjunction. Talk about the advent of photography and 1888 and history and zzzzzz... or, you could show them mjk3 and ask them if they see a doorknob and window edge.
            there,s nothing new, only the unexplored


            • #7
              Perhaps the young man who was seen carrying a "doctor's bag" which apparently contained cigarettes. Use that as a starting point for jumping to conclusions which may not be warranted.



              • #8
                My suggestion would be the weather and light conditions. Also a memory test,in which each pupil would be tested,either singularly or as a group.
                For instance a similarity of the George Hutchinson sighting.Some one dressed up,and the pupils tested after a reasonable time,of what they remember.A restaging of an a reported occurance.


                • #9
                  I really think harrys suggestion great. Testing visual memory would be great fun for the pupils and you could divide them up into groups but not let each group know that the others will be doing it also. You could also ask them the next day.
                  Good Luck with it do let us know what you decide please.


                  • #10
                    You could also use maps, perhaps to discuss the route between the sites of the Stride and Eddowes murders and Goulston Street.


                    • #11
                      Wow, thanks for all these ideas everyone!

                      I already do a visual memory test with them...when we move on to witness statements, we discuss what the problems may be with recall and then, to illustrate it, I stand at the back of the class and forbid them to turn round...and I wearing a tie? If so. What colour is it? Describe my suit. Do I have facial hair? Do I have any visible scars? How tall am I? And the funniest of all, how old am I (I now have proof that when you're 14, every adult is ridiculously old!). This year I'm considering having someone just cut through the classroom, then give them a test on that...even worse results to be expected!

                      The map idea has certainly got would be interesting to see whether students concluded that the killer of Stride fled away from their familiar area, or towards it, or just anywhere...this would require knowing where each suspect lived if they were going to use this in their evidence, but that should be straightforward enough to find out, I'd guess.

                      Robert...I did not include the apron piece, as I was worried that we'd have the same result as with the kidney...if you discount From Hell, you discount the kidney that accompanied it. However, now you've mentioned it, there's no reason to see the apron and the GSG as connected, so that's a strong contender. Ruling out one doesn't mean you have to rule out the other. Does anyone know where I can find a summary of the apron piece? And what ultimately happened to it, by the way?

                      The only problem with the diary (I'm not adverse to using highly questionable evidence, as you can tell from the inclusion of the knife, and at least two of the three letters I use, if not all of them!) is that police didn't have access to it at the time, and if I gave it to the students, they'll either have to trust it - so name Maybrock as the killer even before witness statements and so on - or not trust it at all, so conclude it tells us nothing.

                      The best type of evidence for this task will be one that drops hints as to what kind of person the killer may have been, without actually naming him...which is a tall order.

                      Paddy...I would be very keen to have a copy of the account you mention, if it's not too much trouble, so thank you very much indeed!

                      St Devil...I don't think I can use the photos, although goodness knows that students can access them easily enough via Google...but I have chosen to use the GSG despite the obvious anti-Semitic issues...I mean, it's not pleasant,but neither is any aspect of the murders, really...and I need to teach the Holocaust next term, so there's no ducking the issues associated.

                      C.d...who is the cigarette carrying guy with a doctors bag...I'm confessing my ignorance here but I have never heard of this...

                      Thanks to all for what you've suggested so far...keep 'em coming if you can!



                      • #12
                        Apologies. Mr Lucky I also forgot to thank you for drawing my attention to the two other messages, neither of which I knew about...I may use them as a sort of context for GSG, if I don't put them forward in their own right!


                        • #13
                          Hi Syrius

                          We don't know what happened to the apron piece after the inquest. It was probably just thrown away.

                          Here's a link to an article discussing some of the issues :


                          And of course the inquest is available on this site.


                          • #14
                            Hello Syrius,

                            After the murder of Elizabeth Stride, The Daily News carried a
                            witness statement from Mrs Mortimer who reported seeing a man
                            carrying a shiny black bag in the area at the time of the murder. The
                            man was Leon Goldstein who voluntarily presented himself to the
                            police; he had been walking home carrying a black bag that
                            contained empty cigarette boxes. This contributed to the theory that the Ripper could have been a doctor.



                            • #15
                              For Syrius

                              Hi Syrius this is from my family tree so feel free to copy...If you do use it I would be really interested in hearing where they think he was living....

                              The Truth about the Whitechapel Mysteries told by Harry Cox
                              Ex-Detective Inspector, London City Police. "Thomson's Weekly News"

                              It is only upon certain conditions that I have agreed to deal with the great Whitechapel crimes of fifteen years ago. Much has been written regarding the identity of the man who planned and successfully carried out the outrage...

                              It is my intention the relate several of my experiences while keeping this fellow under observation.

                              We had many people under observation while the murders were being perpetrated, but it was not until the discovery of the body of Mary Kelly had been made that we seemed to get upon the trail. Certain investigations made by several of our cleverest detectives made it apparent to us that a man living in the East End of London was not unlikely to have been connected with the crimes.

                              To understand the reason we must first of all understand the motive of the Whitechapel crimes. The motive was, there can not be the slightest doubt, revenge. Not merely revenge on the few poor unfortunate victims of the knife, but revenge on womankind. It was not a lust for blood, as many people have imagined.

                              The murderer was a misogynist, who at some time or another had been wronged by a woman. And the fact that his victims were of the lowest class proves, I think, that he was not, as has been stated, an educated man who had suddenly gone mad. He belonged to their own class.

                              Had he been wronged by a woman occupying a higher stage in society the murders would in all probability have taken place in the West End, the victims have been members of the fashionable demi-monde.

                              The man we suspected was about five feet six inches in height, with short, black, curly hair, and he had a habit of taking late walks abroad. He occupied several shops in the East End, but from time to time he became insane, and was forced to spend a portion of his time in an asylum in Surrey.

                              While the Whitechapel murders were being perpetrated his place of business was in a certain street, and after the last murder I was on duty in this street for nearly three months.

                              There were several other officers with me, and I think there can be no harm in stating that the opinion of most of them was that the man they were watching had something to do with the crimes. You can imagine that never once did we allow him to quit our sight. The least slip and another brutal crime might have been perpetrated under our very noses. It was not easy to forget that already one of them had taken place at the very moment when one of our smartest colleagues was passing the top of the dimly lit street.

                              The Jews in the street soon became aware of our presence. It was impossible to hide ourselves. They became suddenly alarmed, panic stricken, and I can tell you that at nights we ran a considerable risk. We carried our lives in our hands so to speak, and at last we had to partly take the alarmed inhabitants into our confidence, and so throw them off the scent. We told them we were factory inspectors looking for tailors and capmakers who employed boys and girls under age, and pointing out the evils accruing from the sweaters' system asked them to co-operate with us in destroying it.

                              They readily promised to do so, although we knew well that they had no intention of helping us. Every man was as bad as another. Day after day we used to sit and chat with them, drinking their coffee, smoking their excellent cigarettes, and partaking of Kosher rum. Before many weeks had passed we were quite friendly with them, and knew that we could carry out our observations unmolested. I am sure they never once suspected that we were police detectives on the trail of the mysterious murderer; otherwise they would not have discussed the crimes with us as openly as they did.

                              We had the use of a house opposite the shop of the man we suspected, and, disguised, of course, we frequently stopped across in the role of customers.

                              Every newspaper loudly demanded that we should arouse from our slumber, and the public had lashed themselves into a state of fury and fear. The terror soon spread to the provinces too. Whenever a small crime was committed it was asserted that the Ripper had shifted his ground, and warning letters were received by many a terror stricken woman. The latter were of course the work of cruel practical jokers. The fact, by the way, that the murderer never shifted his ground rather inclines to the belief that he was a mad, poverty stricken inhabitant of some slum in the East End.

                              I shall never forget one occasion when I had to shadow our man during one of his late walks. As I watched him from the house opposite one night, it suddenly struck me that there was a wilder look than usual on his evil countenance, and I felt that something was about to happen. When darkness set in I saw him come forth from the door of his little shop and glance furtively around to see if he were being watched. I allowed him to get right out of the street before I left the house, and then I set off after him. I followed him to Lehman Street, and there I saw him enter a shop which I knew was the abode of a number of criminals well known to the police.

                              He did not stay long. For about a quarter of an hour I hung about keeping my eye on the door, and at last I was rewarded by seeing him emerging alone.

                              He made his way down to St George's in the East End, and there to my astonishment I saw him stop and speak to a drunken woman.

                              I crouched in a doorway and held my breath. Was he going to throw himself right into my waiting arms? He passed on after a moment or two, and on I slunk after him.

                              As I passed the woman she laughed and shouted something after me, which, however, I did not catch.

                              My man was evidently of opinion that he might be followed every minute. Now and again he turned his head and glanced over his shoulder, and consequently I had the greatest difficulty in keeping behind him.

                              I had to work my way along, now with my back to the wall, now pausing and making little runs for a sheltering doorway. Not far from where the model lodging house stands he met another woman, and for a considerable distance he walked along with her.

                              Just as I was beginning to prepare myself for a terrible ordeal, however, he pushed her away from him and set off at a rapid pace.

                              In the end he brought me, tired, weary, and nerve-strung, back to the street he had left where he disappeared into his own house.

                              Next morning I beheld him busy as usual. It is indeed very strange that as soon as this madman was put under observation, the mysterious crimes ceased, and that very soon he removed from his usual haunts and gave up his nightly prowls. He was never arrested for the reason that not the slightest scrap of evidence could be found to connect him with the crimes.