Jack the Ripper


In 1888, the Whitechapel district of the City of London was terrorized by a series of brutal murders of women. In this impoverished area of the city, prostitutes were particularly vulnerable. Even in this early era, various items of forensic art were being utilized as part of the investigation.

Illustration of Jack the Ripper attacking a woman in the street

Jack the Ripper brutally attacking a female victim in the street

This contemporary image from the newspapers of the day depicts a speculative view of the killer as he attacks a woman in the street. Due to the brutal slashing nature of his murders, he became known as Jack the Ripper.  As a young person first living in London during the late 1970s, I remember taking a walking tour of the streets of Whitechapel as a guide described each of the murder sites. Personally visiting the scenes gave a totally new insight.  At the time, I would never have dreamed that it would later be part of my job to visit many crime scenes, attend autopsies and  interview crime victims.


Postmortem drawing of Catherine Eddowes at the crime scene

Postmortem drawing of the body of Catherine Eddowes at the crime scene



One particularly interesting investigative image was done at the scene of the murder of the fourth victim, Catherine Eddowes.  This postmortem drawing was done by Dr. F. Gordon Brown and was used to record the specific nature of the victim’s injuries as well as to document aspects of the crime scene. Even though photography had been introduced in the 1840s, drawings were also used to augment crime scene documentation, then as they still are today.


Composite sketches done in the Ripper murder investigation

Composite sketches done as part of the Ripper investigation


There were even some composite sketches done from descriptions of men in the area near the time of certain murders, although they never led to the capture of the Ripper.  He has never been identified and a great deal of speculation about him continues to this day.