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Why so little focus?

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  • Why so little focus?

    I studied the Ripper case casually on and off in my younger years without ever hearing of the Torso killings. In fact it was in Patricia Cornwell's book that I first read about them, and after that I began to collect more books in earnest. And I have to confess that I'm a little perplexed as to why they aren't focused on more. They are kind of like the 500-pound gorilla in the room that we're not supposed to notice. The impression I get is kind of like, "JACK THE RIPPER, most notorious serial killer of all time, everyone pay attention because this is important! Oh, and by the way, if anyone cares, there was also some other freak running around in the same place at the same time dismembering and decapitating people, but it's not that big a deal."

    Isn't the mere fact that two such human monsters could exist in the same place simultaneously of equal historical significance as the whole legend of the Ripper on its own? In modern times it would be like if Ted Bundy and Gary Ridgeway had occurred in Seattle at the same time rather than a few years apart.

    Actually, as a few other people have expressed, I don't discount the idea that the Ripper and the Torso killer were one and the same, despite the differences in exact details. I base this on the fact that such extreme occurrences are (thankfully, and despite all the attention) extremely rare, and the statistical improbability of more than one person with the background, inclination, motivation, stealth enough not to get caught, and just the nerve and the stomach to actually go through with cutting women to pieces occurring in the same place at the same time. I have stated this before- it is against the odds of commonality every single time it happens even once. A Ted Bundy or a Jeffrey Dahmer or a Jack the Ripper is the rarest of the rare.

  • #2
    Hi Kensei,

    I submitted this case to Newton's The Encyclopedia of Serial Killers so it's in there now. Oddly, it wasn't even in the first edition.

    It always seemed strange to me that this case was sort of under the radar. I guess this guy didn't have as good a PR firm as JtR.
    Last edited by sdreid; 04-08-2008, 03:26 PM.
    This my opinion and to the best of my knowledge, that is, if I'm not joking.

    Stan Reid


    • #3
      Hi kensei
      You raise a good point.
      From a researcher's point of view, I think it is not really a case of ignoring the "500lb gorilla" but rather that there is even less evidence to go on than in the Ripper case itself. At least in the JTR case we have firm identifications for the victims and their lives and backgrounds can be researched.
      In the case of the "Embankment Murderer", the "Torso Murderer" encompassing the Pinchin Street and Whitehall Mystery crimes and the various other remains found, once one has read the police reports and press accounts it really is a question of: "Even if I wanted to research this, where do I go from here?" The current answer is, sadly, "Nowhere."
      I don't think these cases are being deliberately neglected in favour of the more famous Whitechapel murders. It is just that in the case of the latter there is more to go on, more starting points for a researcher's enthusiasm and efforts.


      • #4
        Some very good points raised Kensei.

        I take your points Chris and agree to some extent, but from my own point of view, I've found embracing the "500lb gorilla" a little to be quite rewarding.

        I suppose it mainly depends on what people hope to achieve by looking at the the torso murders. If it's to identify their perpetrator or tie them in with Jack, then I doubt anyone will ever succeed in that, but comparisons can be made.

        If it's to draw attention to these murders and hold them up as an example of other probable prostitute killings and mutilations (in some cases) and question some of the myths about these victims being women of a 'better class' than the Whitechapel victims, or of them being victims of botched abortions or even not victims of anyone at all...just suicides, chopped up by bargemen to make some easy cash! Then it does get us somewhere...I think.
        There are some great human stories behind some of these cases, although only one torso victim was identified, a few anguished families came forward with tales of their wayward daughters and their suspicions of their demise.

        I find them very interesting to research, personally.
        ,,`,, Debs ,,`,,

        I am not DJA. He's called Dave.


        • #5
          And a damn fine job you have made of it, Debs.
          Just like you, I have been wrestling with this 500 pound gorilla now for a few years, and find it a rewarding and useful task, as it helps to put the Whitechapel Murders into another context, enabling us to take a wider view of the crimes, and the period they were committed in.
          A few years ago I began researching - and posting on these boards - facts and figures regarding murder and mutilation in the years between 1886 and 1889 - believe it or not it had never been done before - and I like to think the results of that research changed forever the way many viewed the crimes in splendid isolation, and led to a wider view and discussion about the Whitechapel Murders.
          I think this is also where the 'Torso' crimes have a very large role to play.
          Only the other day I was astounded to discover that the victim in the Scotland Yard torso case, who had been described as 'well built' and 'plump', had in fact a 28 inch waist.
          I'm fairly wary of linkage between the Torso murders and the Whitechapel Murders, at this stage, but I have said many times that I have always regarded Mary Kelly as an interrupted crime, and that she was destined for the Thames as a victim of the Torso murderer.
          Personally, over the years, I've hand-wrestled this 500 pound gorilla a few times, with no success yet I'll admit, but he don't scare me.


          • #6
            I'm fairly wary of linkage between the Torso murders and the Whitechapel Murders, at this stage, but I have said many times that I have always regarded Mary Kelly as an interrupted crime, and that she was destined for the Thames as a victim of the Torso murderer.[/QUOTE]

            But the midsections in the other Torso victims were more or less intact, weren't they? Mary Kelly's was anything but. Plus her heart was missing. (Yes I'm aware of the debate over the interpretation of that, but I'm one of those who believe the heart really was literally missing.) Disembowelment and taking of organs were Jack's trademarks (if he and Torso were not the same person). I've always felt that what he did to Mary K. was what he had always wanted to do to the others but just hadn't had the privacy and therefore the time.

            On the other hand, there were no horrendously messy Miller's Court-type crime scenes located in the Torso cases, so whether they were done by Jack or not it would seem they must have been done in the killer's own private location somewhere where he could clean up at his leisure. If it was Jack, he may have just been thinking it was another way in which he could delight in shocking people. And of course, to stick it to the police in a very personal way by leaving remains at New Scotland Yard. As big a rush, one would think, as evading the dragnet on the night of the Double Event.

            Another case comes to mind- I remember hearing that in America, Elliot Ness (famous for putting Al Capone away) finished his career in some level of disgrace after failing to solve a similar torso killer case, though I don't recall the exact details.


            • #7
              Everyone knows that the best way to pack a body up for disposal in a river is to wildly slash the face and spread interior organs and other parts around a bed and table first.

              Dan Norder
              Ripper Notes: The International Journal for Ripper Studies
              Web site: - Email:


              • #8
                As I said, Kensei, I have always viewed the Kelly case as an interrupted crime. Your point is an excellent one, but there are just as many indications in the mutilation of Kelly to suggest - very strongly actually - that the killer intended to disjoint the body, and had started to do so, when he, or she, simply ran out of time.
                The simple and obvious solution was to mimic a similar crime that had happened in the neighbourhood, and walk out of the door.
                I'm afraid I'm unable to accept the attempts made by the killer to actually dismember Kelly as being compatible with the series of crimes we know as the Whitechapel Murders.


                • #9
                  It makes it easier to tote the body around in a burlap bag or bags, and dispose of it, or display it, what ever floats his boat.

                  In the Land of the Blind, the one-eyed man is King !


                  • #10
                    Do you mean that when the killer judged that he had run out of time, it was at that point that he [I]began[I] the disembowelment? Surely removing all those organs had to take a lot more time.


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by kensei View Post
                      But the midsections in the other Torso victims were more or less intact, weren't they?
                      If you read these two sections in isolation from accounts of mutilations on two victims, one torso, one Whitechapel,would you think the cases may be linked?

                      The skin and tissues of the abdomen from the costal arch to the pubes were removed in three large flaps. ......... the flap of skin, including the external organs of generation, and part of the right buttock. The neck was cut through the skin and other tissues right down to the vertebrae, the fifth and sixth being deeply notched

                      The flaps of skin and subcutaneous tissue consisted of two long, irregular slips taken from the abdominal walls. The left piece included the umbilicus, the greater part of the mons veneris the left labium majus, and labium minus The right piece included the rest of the mons veneris, the right labium majus and minus[external organs of generation], and part of the skin of the right buttock.
                      Head and neck taken off opposite the 6th cervical vertebra
                      ,,`,, Debs ,,`,,

                      I am not DJA. He's called Dave.


                      • #12
                        Hi Kensei,

                        I've wondered about the Torso murders as well, and it as the others have said, there was so little to go on. I do think these were possibly done by someone having their own private space or at least access to it on occasion. I often wonder, too, about what sort of women these were? How did they fall into the clutches of their killer? They probably were not much different from JTR's victims but for some reason I keep thinking they were of a better class.

                        Best wishes,

                        "What our ancestors would really be thinking, if they were alive today, is: "Why is it so dark in here?"" From Pyramids by Sir Terry Pratchett, a British National Treasure.



                        • #13
                          Nice one, Debs.
                          There does appear to have been a deliberate attempt to partially disarticulate Mary Kelly, the killer having worked at removing the head, and one arm and leg... which has always led me to believe that it was a 'disposal' crime rather than an act of mutilation carried out for purpose we do not understand.
                          Taking into account the alarming speed at which the killer worked in Mitre Square, one supposes that 15 or 20 minutes would do to create another 'Whitechapel Murder'.
                          I would imagine that disarticulation is a very time consuming business.


                          • #14
                            Well, AP, I posted that to answer Kensei's question about the torso victims midsections being left intact. I think our views of the torso murders are sometimes coloured by the various newspaper illustrations of the time showing perfect, pert breasted torso's with clean little stumps where the head and limbs were removed....all neat and tidy and businesslike.

                            Going by the Fanny Adams child murder, the doctors estimated 20 minutes would have been taken for her dismemberment, I think the time factor only figures in the disposal, as that would be a long process I presume?

                            Just going by inquest press reports, when Dr Phillip's was asked to compare the mutilations of MJK to the Pinchin Street torso he did mention that the killer in the Pinchin Street case had shown a greater knowledge when it came to disarticulation of joints, so that seems like there was some attempt in MJK's case maybe.
                            ,,`,, Debs ,,`,,

                            I am not DJA. He's called Dave.


                            • #15
                              Hi Celesta
                              Originally posted by Celesta View Post
                              They probably were not much different from JTR's victims but for some reason I keep thinking they were of a better class.
                              I think the doctors and press were responsible for a lot of the ideas that the torso victims were of a better class than the Whitechapel victims.

                              In the 1887 Rainham case the doctors were quoted by the press as believing the victim to be of a superior class due to her elegant and well turned calves, ankles and heels....the Whitechapel gals only ever had chankles see

                              Elizabeth Jackson was a homeless, destitute prostitute when she was last seen talking to a man outside a pub hours before her death. On finding her arms and hands, the doctors were convinced that she was of a 'superior class' due to her hands being pale and 'genteel' looking, and showing no signs of manual labour.It was reported that the shabby clothing found with the victim may have been a red herring when it came to her class. She was positively identified by her family though.
                              The same description applied to the hands in the Whitehall case too, and it was first thought that the skirt the torso was wrapped in was of an expensive material and make. On further investigations it turned out to be a common or garden material, and about ten years out of fashion, similar to the kind of clothing the Whitechapel victims were known to wear.
                              ,,`,, Debs ,,`,,

                              I am not DJA. He's called Dave.