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Unmasking Jack the Ripper
"Perhaps the best Jack the Ripper documentary produced in recent years." North American and European DVD formats both available.
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The Trial of George Chapman
By Hargrave Lee Adam, 1930

Published in 1930 as part of the Notable British Trials series, the introduction to The Trial of George Chapman includes a section relating to the Whitechapel murders and Chapman's alleged connections to the crimes. This is based largely on the opinion of Inspector Frederick Abberline, who was said to have remarked "You've got Jack the Ripper at last!" upon the arrest of Severin Klosowski (a.k.a. George Chapman).

The majority of the work is a transcript of Chapman's trial, which took place in 1903 after he was arrested on suspicion of poisoning three of his wives. He was subsequently convicted and hanged in the same year.


X. Chapman and Jack-the-Ripper.

After the investigations had been completed and the case against Chapman was fully established, the police authorities entertained a strong idea that some sinister connection existed between the Borough poisoner and the mysterious murderer of Whitechapel, popularly known as Jack-the-Ripper. Circumstantial evidence to support this belief was not lacking. The matter is, therefore, of sufficient interest for notice here. It is proposed to present a very brief account of the series of murders attributed to the unknown criminal, and afterwards to show how the circumstances surrounding them are coincident with the career of Chapman.

The first murder of this series took place in the early morning of 31st August, 1888, the victim being Mary Ann Nicholls, who lived in a common lodging-house in Thrawl Street, Spitalfields, and who was of the unfortunate class. Her body was found in Buck's Row, Whitechapel, about 4.15 a.m. The throat was cut from ear to ear and the lower part of the body was shockingly mutilated. At the subsequent inquest some interesting, though not very helpful, evidence was given. A police surgeon, who examined the body while it lay in Buck's Row, stated that the deceased was lying fiat upon her back; he estimated that she had died about half an hour before his arrival there ; and on account of the direction of the cuts, he believed that they had been inflicted by a left-handed man. It appeared that the murder, carried out as it was with a very sharp knife, had been swift and instantly effective. As no sound was heard by any one in the surrounding houses, the victim had died without uttering a cry. The coroner's jury brought in the inevitable verdict of "Wilful murder against some person or persons unknown."

The second murder, occurring on the following 8th September, was that of a woman named Annie Chapman, who also was an "unfortunate." Her body, with injuries similar to, and even more revolting than, those of Nicholls, was found in Hanbury Street, which is quite a short distance from Buck's Row. As before, no weapon was found, and there was no clue left by the murderer. A man did come forward to state that, while he was walking through Hanbury Street at 5.25 a.m. on the morning of the murder, he overheard some persons talking on the other side of some paling, near the spot where the body was afterwards found ; he remembered that, as he passed, one of them said "No." This information was, of course, of no value whatever to the police. With their actions based upon no foundations, they detained several well-known criminals; but each suspect was able to satisfy his interrogators about his movements on the morning of the tragedy. Many wild stories were circulated about a mysterious gentleman known as "Leather Apron." This man was found, and the police were quickly convinced that he knew nothing about the murder. To offer a reward of 100 for information that might lead to the arrest of the murderer was the next step of Sir Charles Warren, the Commissioner of Metropolitan Police. This produced nothing, other than clues which led to loose ends.

It has been mentioned that the injuries in the second case were of a particularly horrible character. On an examination being made it was discovered that some of the internal organs of the dead woman were missing. Many conjectures were made at the inquest as to the kind of weapon used by the assailant. The coroner suggested that it might have been a soldier's bayonet, or slaughterer's knife, or a postmortem knife wielded by a medical man, or one used in the leather trade. While the surgeon admitted that it might have been any one of them, that did not help the investigations much.

For three weeks after the second crime the lives of the prostitutes of Whitechapel went undisturbed. Then, on the morning of 30th September, came the master stroke of this savage. About one o'clock the body of Elizabeth Stride, yet another of their number, was found in Berners Street, against the wall of the International Workmen's Club. The woman's throat was out, but her body had not been injured. Firmly clasped in one hand she held a bunch of grapes and in the other some sweetmeats. Rain had fallen, and the woman's clothes were saturated. Her body was removed to the mortuary of St. George's-in-the-East.

That same night Jack-the-Ripper murdered Catherine Eddowes, another prostitute, in Mitre Square, Aldgate, hardly more than ten minutes' walk from Berners Street. Eddowes, like her wretched fellow-victim, had been living in Flower-and-Dean Street, a most notorious thoroughfare at that time. The circumstances surrounding the second murder illustrated vividly how swiftly the murderer worked and how extraordinarily elusive he was. At 1.30 a.m. a police constable, walking round the square, noticed nothing unusual. Fifteen minutes later, at 1.45, a man found the body, with the throat cut and trunk mutilated, in the south-west corner of the square. As it happened that the police were that morning closely watching people entering the square in twos, it was surmised that the murderer and Eddowes entered separately and met inside. Apparently the Berners Street murder had been committed shortly before one o'clock, and, being interrupted, the murderer had been obliged to leave his victim's body without inflicting the usual abdominal injuries. Disappointed and annoyed, perhaps, at having thus been frustrated, the murderer looked about for a second victim. He found her, and here, at any rate, he was able to complete his ghastly task.

This double attack by the Whitechapel murderer created widespread panic in the neighbourhood of the crimes and sent a shock throughout the entire city. The police, both City and Metropolitan, were alarmed and dismayed. Rewards totalling about 1000 were offered for the capture of the fiend, with the result that many private persons set themselves out to catch him. About this time a letter and a card, both purporting to come from the murderer, were received by the police: The letter was as follows :

Sep. 25
Dear Boss, - I keep on hearing the police have caught me but they won't fix me just yet. I have laughed when they look so clever and talk about being on the right track. The joke about Leather Apron gave me real fits. I am down on whores, and I shan't quit ripping them till I do get buckled. Grand work, the last job was. I gave the lady no time to squeal How can they catch me now? I love my work and want to start again. You will soon hear of me and my funny little games. I saved some of the proper red stuff in a ginger-beer bottle over the last job, to write with, but it went thick like glue, and I can't use it. Red ink is fit enough, I hope. Ha! Ha! The next job I do I shall clip the lady's ears off, and send to the police officers, just for jolly, wouldn't you? Keep this letter back till I do a bit more work, then give it out straight. My knife's so nice and sharp, I want to get to work right away if I get a chance. Good luck-Yours truly, Jack-the-Ripper.

Don't mind me giving the trade-name. Wasn't good enough to post this before I got all the red ink off my hands; curse it.
No luck yet. They say I am a doctor now. Ha! Ha!

The card bore the postmark "London, E., Oct. 1," and read:--

I was not codding, dear old Boss, when I gave you the tip. You'll hear about Saucy Jack's work to-morrow. Double event this time. Number one squealed a bit; couldn't finish straight off. Had not time to get ears for police. Thanks for keeping last letter back till I got to work again.-Jack-the-Ripper.

The police attached sufficient importance to these documents to send copies to the leading newspapers for reproduction. It was thought that the handwriting might force a clue, but nothing came of it. Had it not been for certain features in them, they might well have been regarded as the compositions of a practical joker endowed with a most horrible sense of humour. The dates were suggestive, and in the case of the last victim an attempt had been made to cut off an ear.

The terror that reigned for a time in the city had depressed considerably before the next outrage was perpetrated. On the following 9th November, the body of Mary Jane Kelly was found in a house in Miller Court, Dorset Street, Spitalfelds. Her body was the most shockingly mutilated of the entire series of atrocities. A prominent doctor, much experienced in dissecting-room work, was shocked, and stated that in his whole career he had never seen anything so horrible. The discoverer of the body was a man sent by Kelly's landlord to collect arrears of rent, who, on finding the door of Kelly's room locked, forced an entry. On the eve of her murder some one in the house heard Kelly singing. She must have gone out later, met with her murderer, and returned to Miller Court. Indoors the Ripper was given a more favourable opportunity than he had yet had to carry out his work. In connection with this crime the police interviewed a man who had been living with Kelly, but he was, of course, able able to account satisfactorily for his movements.

Immediately after this murder the following notice was issued by the police :--

MURDER-PARDON. Whereas on November 8 or 9 in Miller Court, Dorset Street, Spitalfields, Mary Jane Kelly was murdered by some person or persons unknown, the Secretary of State will advise the grant of Her Majesty's pardon to any accomplice not being a person who contrived or actually committed the murder who shall give such information and evidence as shall lead to the discovery and conviction of the person or persons who committed the murder.-(Signed) CHARLES WARREN, the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis, Metropolitan Police Officer, 4 Whitehall, November 10, 1888.

A man who knew the deceased then came forward to describe a man with whom he had seen her on the early morning of the 9th. Here is his description of the man "Respectable appearance; height, 5 feet 6 inches, and age between 34 and 35; wearing dark coat with astrachan trimmings, - black necktie, horse-shoe pin, dark gaiters, light buttons on boots, and massive gold watch chain."

The police persevered in their detention of suspected persons, but with no success. The wanted criminal continued to evade the authorities.

In his official capacity of wholesale murderer nothing more was heard of the Whitechapel murderer until July, 1889. Reports in the newspapers concerning him were, however, constantly appearing ; among those the most interesting was one graphically describing his capture at Tunis. At a moment when people in London were beginning to think that they had heard the last of him, he made his presence known again in the East End with startling effectiveness.

In the early morning of 18th July, 1889, an unknown woman was murdered in Castle Alley, Whitechapel, her injuries being similar to those sustained by earlier victims. At 12.15 a.m., on the morning of the murder, a police constable had entered the alley and had partaken of a frugal supper under a lamp. At 12.25 a.m. he left the alley to speak to another constable who was engaged on the same beat. Returning at 12.50 he found the body of a woman, under the lamp where he had previously stood. The ground beneath the body was quite dry, though the clothing of the woman was wet. A shower of rain had fallen at 12.40: the murder was therefore committed between 12.25, when the constable left the alley, and 12.40, when the rain commenced to fall. An interesting deduction, but unfortunately it yielded no practical result.

This was the last murder of the series. The police were baffled, the Ripper finally and completely victorious. According to Sir Henry Smith, Commissioner of City Police at the time, the nearest they ever got to the murderer was on the night of the double murder. After the Mitre Square murder it was discovered that part of the woman's apron was missing; this was found, deeply bloodstained, outside the door of one of the Peabody Buildings in Goveston Street. Chalked on the wall above were these words: "The Jewes are the men what won't be blamed for nothing." This writing was immediately wiped off the wall by order of Sir Charles Warren, who feared a demonstration against the Jews. This was perhaps a mistake, as the handwriting might have afforded a clue. It was clearly established that the assassin had wiped his hands on the piece of apron, and, with characteristic audacity, had washed them at a sink situated in a close in Dorset Street, only a few yards from where his victim lay.

As every one knows, who this mysterious criminal was has never been cleared up. Several prominent officials have from time to time asserted that they had established his identity. The late Sir Melville Macnaghten, the late Sir Robert Anderson, Sir Henry Smith, and many others of less importance have assured us regarding this. Sir Melville Macnaghten even went so far as to declare that he had once possessed documentary proof of the identity of the criminal, but that he had burnt the papers. An unprecedented thing, surely, for a police official to do! These declarations, as mere declarations without evidence to support them, are unsatisfactory. It is quite certain that nobody ever did know for certain who Jack-the-Ripper was.

It is now proposed to present the case for supposing -- one cannot put it in stronger terms -- that George Chapman, or Severin Klosowski, was actually Jaok-the-Ripper. For convenience, the facts are arranged in parallel columns.

JACK-THE-RIPPER
CHAPMAN
First murder of the series committed, in August, 1888. Chapman arrived in London some time in 1888; worked and lived in Whitechapel.
Other murders committed during 1888. During this time Chapman was within easy reach of the scenes of these murders.
It was thought that Jack-the-Ripper had medical knowledge. Chapman had been a medical student.
Description given of the man seen with the woman Kelly: "Height, 5 ft. 6in.; age, 34 or 35; dark complexion, with moustache curled at ends." This is a most faithful description of Chapman.
The Americanisms in the letter and card written to the police. Chapman passed himself off as an American and used Americanisms in conversation.
The grim and callous joking tone of the messages. Chapman was very callous, and was in the habit of indulging in pleasantries of this sort.
Last murder in London, July, 1889. Chapman still in the vicinity.
No Ripper murders in England, but similar murders in America, in the locality of Jersey City. Chapman and his wife left in May, 1890, for America, where Chapman opened a barber's shop at Jersey City.
At the beginning of 1892 Ripper murders cease in America. Chapman left America and returned to London in May, 1892.

It is evident that before he committed his last murder Jaek-the-Ripper realised that the game was becoming too hazardous; this is borne out by the fact that considerable time elapsed between the commission of his later murders, and his last crime was obviously perpetrated indoors to afford him greater security. If Chapman was actually Jack-the-Ripper, poisoning, as a much safer means of killing, might easily have suggested itself to him. Having changed his method, it became, of course, imperative that he should seek an entirely different class of victim.

Chief Inspector Abberline, who had charge of the investigations into the East End murders, thought that Chapman and Jack-the-Ripper were one and the same person. He closely questioned the Polish woman, Lucy Baderaki, about Chapman's nightly habits at the time of the murders. She said that he was often out until three or four o'clock in the morning, but she could throw little light upon these absences. Both Inspector Abberline and Inspector Godley spent years in investigating the "Ripper" murders. Abberline never wavered in his firm conviction that Chapman and Jack-the-Ripper were one and the same person. When Godley arrested Chapman Abberline said to his confrere "You've got Jack-the-Ripper at last!"

That Chapman's career coincides exactly with the movements and operations of Jack-the-Ripper must appeal strongly to all who endeavour to throw light upon the shadows of the latter's obscurity. The whole of Chapman's life cannot be made quite clear. At his trial the prosecution proved that he murdered Mrs. Spink, Bessie Taylor, and Maud Marsh; but as they made no effort to discover others no one can say, with confidence, how many murders he committed. A reasonable case for supposing that Chapman was Jack-the-Ripper has, at least, been furnished. At that the subject must be left, without material proof of the connection. Upon that strange period of Chapman's career, when he worked and lodged in Whitechapel, no new light can be shed, and the identity of Jack-the-Ripper will for ever remain a mystery.


Leading Dates in the Chapman (Klosowski) Case.

1860, Dec. 14. Severin Klosowski born in Poland.
1880. Apprenticed to a surgeon.
1886. Klosowski employed as assistant surgeon in Praga hospital and afterwards enlists in the Russian Army.
1888-89. Klosowski works as a hairdresser's assistant in Whitechapel under the name of "Ludwig" Klosowski.

Jack the Ripper murders in London.

Klosowski marries Lucy Baderski and shortly after goes to Jersey City in America.

Last of the Jack the Ripper murders in July.

1890. Murders similar to those of Jack the Ripper in America.
1891. Klosowski's wife returns-from America.
1892. Klosowski returns to London. The Jack the Ripper murders in America cease.
1893. Klosowski meets Annie Chapman, with whom he cohabits for about a year. Assumes the name of George Chapman.
1895. Chapman meets Mrs. Spink at Leytonstone, and in October declares that they are married.
1897. Balance of Mrs. Spink's money paid over to a legal firm representing "Mr. and Mrs. Chapman."

Chapman carries on a hairdresser's business at Hastings.

" Apl. 3. Buys tartar-emetic from a chemist.
" Dec. 25. Death of Mrs. Spink.
1898-1900. "Marries" Bessie Taylor.

Leaves London and takes "The Grapes" public-house at Bishops Stortford.

1901, Feb. 13. Death of Bessie Taylor.
" Aug. Engages Maud Marsh as a barmaid. "Marries" Maud Marsh.
1902, Oct. 22 Maud Marsh dies.
" 25. Chapman arrested.
" 28 Opening of Coroner's Inquest on the body of Maud Marsh.
1903, Feb. 11. Chapman committed for trial at Central Criminal Court.
" May. 16. The Trial.
" Apl. 7. Chapman executed.


Related pages:
  George Chapman
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       Message Boards: Severin Klosowski (a.k.a. George Chapman) 
       Press Reports: Atlanta Constitution - 24 March 1903 
       Press Reports: Atlanta Constitution - 5 April 1903 
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       Press Reports: Times [London] - 15 January 1903 
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