|A Ripperologist Article|
|This article originally appeared in Ripperologist No. 26, December 1999. Ripperologist is the most respected Ripper periodical on the market and has garnered our highest recommendation for serious students of the case. For more information, view our Ripperologist page. Our thanks to the editor of Ripperologist for permission to reprint this article.|
by Mark King
Jacob Levy was born in Aldgate in 1856, the son of Joseph and Caroline Levy, the former having a butchers business situated at 111 Middlesex Street, Spitalfields. The 1881 census returns list Jacob as a butcher by trade, residing along with his wife and two children at 11 Fieldgate Street, Whitechapel. The 1851, 1861 and 1871 census returns list a Hyam Levy, his wife Frances, and his family residing at 36 Middlesex Street, Aldgate, again with a successful butchering business, but by 1881 the returns now list the widowed Frances as head of the household and employed as a butcher.
Hyam and Frances Levy were the parents of Joseph Hyam Levy who was born in Aldgate in 1841 and who by 1888 had a butchers business himself situated at 1 Hutchinson Street, Aldgate, which was geographically sited at the junction of Middlesex Street, a mere sixty yards or so from number 36 Middlesex Street where Kelly's London Business Directory for 1888 lists Jacob Levy, his wife Sarah, and numerous children as residing, with Jacob once again employed as a butcher. By 1891 the census returns list Sarah Levy (a butcher by trade) as head of the household, but now living at 69 Middlesex Street. If Jacob Levy was not related to Joseph Hyam Levy then they would undoubtedly have known one another, either by sight or by acquaintance.
On 15 August 1890 Jacob Levy was delivered to the City of London lunatic asylum, Stone, in Kent, as an insane person. Under the heading of 'address of friends', as recorded in his case notes, a man named Isaac Barnett was entered at 87 Middlesex Street, and according to the 1890 Business Directories lists he was a dairyman. Jacob's occupation was noted as that of a butcher and the cause of his illness was mania and which had a duration of `some time'. His hereditary predisposition was that his eldest brother was insane and that his expression of countenance was 'restless'. In description his bodily health was good and he stood at 5' 3" tall and weighed 9 stone 3 pounds.
His previous history was that he was sentenced to twelve months imprisonment back in 1886, but was instead sent to the Essex County asylum. Additional observations during his term at Stone was that his wife had complained that he almost ruined her business: "he also feels that if he is not restrained he will do some violence to someone; he complains about hearing strange noises; cries for no reason; feels compelled to do acts that his conscience cannot stand; and has a conscience of a feeling of exaltation". His wife also revealed that he was formerly a shrewd businessman and that "he does not sleep at nights and wanders around aimlessly for hours".
At 7.52pm on the evening of the 29 July 1891 Jacob finally died at the asylum from General Paralysis of the Insane brought on by the serious sexually transmitted disease syphilis, therefore indicating a possibility of liaisons with the Aldgate/Whitechapel prostitutes.
The calendar records for the Central Criminal Court have an entry for Jacob Levy having been arrested on 10 March 1886 for the theft of a weight of meat from his master Hyman Sampson, who formerly had a butcher's business at 58 Goulston Street, and he was found guilty of the charge on 6 April 1886 and sentenced to twelve months at Holloway Prison.
Jacob may very well have blamed prostitutes for the cause of his illness together with the impending failure of his once successful family butchering business, and he may also have believed, or assumed, that his children were now syphilitic.
At 8.30pm on 29 September 1888 Catharine Eddowes was taken into police custody by PC Robinson of the City Police for causing a drunken disturbance outside 29 Aldgate High Street and she was finally released at 1.00am. Rather than make her way home to Flower and Dean Street, Catharine once again headed towards the Aldgate vicinity. At about 1.30am three men named as Joseph Lawende, Harry Harris and Joseph Hyam Levy had left the Imperial Club situated at 16-17 Duke's Place, Aldgate, and about four minutes later, and about fifteen yards from the club, they noticed a man and a woman standing talking quietly to one another at the entrance to Church Passage, which led into Mitre Square. Some ten minutes later Catharine Eddowes was found murdered and extensively mutilated in a dark and desolate corner of the square.
The couple, observed in particular by Joseph Levy, had, as it appears, alarmed him to a certain degree as he had remarked to his companion Harry Harris that "I don't like going home by myself when I see these sort of characters about... I'm off!" and he further added that the Court (meaning Mitre Square) ought to be watched.
The Evening News for 9 October 1888 reported that "Mr Levy is absolutely obstinate and refuses to give the slightest information and he leaves one to infer that he knows something but that he is afraid to be called on the inquest. At the inquest Levy admitted observing a man and a woman at the entrance to Church Passage though he did not take any particular notice of them although he described the man as having been three inches taller than the woman (Eddowes and Jacob Levy stood 5'0" and 5'3" tall respectively) and when pressed under cross examination he denied thinking her appearance as `terrible' and went on to add that he was not exactly afraid for himself". So therefore could the butcher Joseph Levy have in fact recognized his neighbour the butcher Jacob Levy as the man he had seen in the company of a woman who he may have presumed to be a prostitute that was to be influential in causing him so much alarm?
The opposite sides of Middlesex Street were divided by the boundaries of both the City of London and Metropolitan police jurisdictions and nestling within the City boundaries resided Jacob Levy, and moreover, some 100 metres away to the east and over in the Met's jurisdiction was located Goulston Street - and it was here that the Ripper, when on flight from Mitre Square, had discarded a cut away portion of Catharine Eddowes apron inside a doorway entrance to some tenement buildings. Now this may have been purposely contrived by Jacob in an attempt to deceive the authorities into assuming the direction as to which the Ripper was heading, seemingly deeper into the Met's jurisdiction, so therefore Jacob may very well have rapidly backtracked after employing this false trail the mere 100 metres across the border and into the City's jurisdiction, and the safety of his home, for he may very well have suspected that Joseph Hyam Levy had only minutes earlier recognised him in the company of a woman believed to be Catharine Eddowes loitering inside the covered entrance to Church Passage.
Following this episode the Ripper murders were to experience the longest gap since the series had begun and possibly not until the following year was he again to strike out on the street. The Eddowes murder was unique in one way to all Ripper, or Ripper-related, murders as it was the only one committed within the City boundaries, and so therefore an explanation possibly being due to the opportunity presenting itself, and furthermore at around the same time as Catharine Eddowes' release from police custody at about 1.0am the murder of Elizabeth Stride over at Berner Street (in the Met's jurisdiction) had fled the neighbourhood and was heading in a westerly direction towards the Aldgate vicinity.
Dr Frederick Gordon Brown, surgeon to the City of London Police, and who was present at Eddowes' post mortem at the Golden Lane mortuary, had opinionated that the miscreant's knowledge of anatomy may be possessed by someone in the habit of cutting up animals, and some years later in 1905 at a meeting of the Crimes Club, he again believed that the cuts inflicted upon Catharine Eddowes were suggestive of a butcher. Moreover, Godfrey Lushington, a civil servant to the Home Office, had made it his opinion that the murder of both Stride and Eddowes was the work of a Jew.
Interestingly, three days prior to Catharine's death she had returned from a hop-picking excursion in Kent claiming her belief as to the identity of the Whitechapel murderer and was constantly seen in the Aidgate vicinity within the last hours of her life, in such a vicinity to where the diseased and insane Jewish butcher Jacob Levy lived and worked, and the year 1891 coinciding with Jacob's death saw the official police files on the case finally and inexplicably close.
Finally, and just under six weeks later, after the Eddowes murder, the witness George Hutchinson had reported that he had seen a man of a Jewish appearance accompanying Mary Jane Kelly on the night of the Millers Court murder, and who he thought as seeing once again a short time later in Jacob's street of residence - Middlesex Street!Sources:
Corporation of London Records Office: Jacob Levy; City of London lunatic asylum, Stone, Male patient's case notes 1890/91
London Metropolitan Archives: Calendar for the Central Criminal Court 1886: Kelly's London Business Directories
Family Records Centre: Births, Deaths and Marriages Registers