The death of Elizabeth Stride on the 30:th of September 1888 has always been described as a deed involving a number of mysteries. Every effort to unveil what really happened on Berner Street and in Dutfields Yard that night, no matter how knowledgeable about the details the originator of the effort is, seems to trip over one stumbling stone or another.
For the layman trying to identify Jack the Ripper, there are heaps of information to take in and interpret. Mountains of books and rivers of newspaper reports have been published, and as the years roll by, astonishing amounts of material is dug out from deeper and deeper layers of oblivion. Nothing of all this can be ignored by the serious Ripperologist (although a lot of the published material makes a mockery of the few facts that are known), since the smallest piece of information can be a crucial detail, adding understanding to events and scenarios that would have gone misunderstood otherwise.
One major problem of all Ripperology is that the Whitechapel case carries a lead-heavy rucksack full of theorizing, preconceived notions and more or less generally accepted "facts". Though such "facts" are sometimes wrong, they may still find support from the broad audience. At such occasions any efforts to disassemble generally accepted notions will be met by tough resistance. These notions, of course, negatively affect the possibilities of solving what parts may still be solved. And nowhere is that risk more obvious than in the Stride case, with its built-in mysteries:
-We have witness reports and sightings that are more or less incompatible with each other.
-We have the cachous found in Stride´s left hand.
-We have the mystery of the bloody right hand.
-We have an assault, very close in time to Stride´s death, that does not seem to fit in with the way she died.
-We have the riddle of Stride not being mutilated, though there must in all probability have been ample time to do so.
The inconsistencies and mysteries go on and on, resulting in what seems to present an impenetrable case, a crossword with too few leads or a jigsaw puzzle where too many pieces are missing to enable a sensible suggestion of a solution.
Jigsaw puzzles and crosswords have one thing in common; one false move and you are never going to come up with the correct solution - unless you step back and put things right. And to give us a chance of doing just that, we must empty history´s rucksack of some of its deadweight, and try to drive away at least some of the many shadows still lurking in Dutfields Yard.
Stride is one of the canonical five. Moreover, she is one of the two victims that were used to paint the picture of the night of the double event. She is thus - perhaps more than any other of the victims - essential to the building of the myth of Jack the Ripper. Drop her, and a huge part of the magic of the myth is gone. Therefore many theorists are not willing to readily do so.
When a television show was aired in Britain not so very long ago, and the watchers were given the possibility to vote for their favourite suspects, the Royal conspiracy won. That goes to prove that people have a built-in resistance to let go of the Jack myth. It also points out that the more sensational the part of the myth, the more reluctant many people will be to part with it. And the murder of Elizabeth Stride is one of the major sensations of the Ripper saga. To uphold the status of Long Liz´s case, one ingredient is absolutely necessary - Jack. And sadly, Jack is the jigsaw piece that has the wrong shape in the Stride puzzle. Take him away, and we are suddenly able to piece it all together.
To do so, we must accept the testimony given by Israel Schwartz, a testimony that has been questioned over and over again. Why? Well, to some extent because his sighting of the murder night is a major obstacle if you want to promote Jack as Strides killer. It has been suggested that Schwartz, like Emmanuel Violenia, may have come forward out of a morbid wish to see a dead body. He has been pointed out as a possible homosexual, though he was married at the time. He has been scorned as a cheap actor. It has even been thrown forward that his dressing was so fanciful that it alone implies how untrustworthy a witness he was. And, of course, it has been said that as he was interpreted during his interview by the police, nothing of what he said can be trusted.
Yet Frederick Abberline interviewed him at length, resulting in the prominent Ripper hunter becoming convinced that Schwartz´ statement was a truthful one, thus carrying a highly significant weight.
Swansons version of Schwartz´ testimony is well-known to the students of the case:
"[At 12:45 am]... on turning into Berner Street from Commercial Road, & had got as far as the gateway where the murder was committed he saw a man stop & speak to a woman, who was standing in the gateway. He tried to pull the woman into the street, but he turned her round & threw her down on the footway & the woman screamed three times, but not very loudly. On crossing to the opposite side of the street, he saw a second man lighting his pipe. The man who threw the woman down called out, apparently to the man on the opposite side of the road, "Lipski" & then Schwartz walked away, but finding that he was followed by the second man, he ran as far as the railway arch, but the man did not follow so far. Schwartz cannot say whether the two men were together or known to each other. Upon being taken to the mortuary Schwartz identified the body as that of the woman he had seen & he thus described the first man who threw the woman down: age about 30, 5ft 5in, complexion fair, dark hair, small brown moustache, full face, broad shouldered, dress, dark jacket, trousers black, cap with a peak, nothing in his hand."
If we scrutinize what Schwartz said, there are a number of factors that speak in favour of believing his statement.
To begin with, he did in no way give himself a heroic role. Instead he admitted to cowardly fleeing the scene.
Also, there were a couple of oddities that do not seem as details that would be logically added to a faked testimony:
-Schwartz states that the assailant tried to pull Stride into the street, which would in no way be the logical way of launching an attack. Pulling her out into the street would include the assailant stepping backwards. And to describe an assailant as somebody who moves backwards seems a very improbable detail to add to a fake. Also, it should be taken into account, that this was the introduction to the assault, and thus the very first thing that caught Schwartz´s attention and started his adrenalin flowing. As such, witness psychology predicts that it is a part that will most probably have been remembered correctly.
-Schwartz also states that "the woman screamed three times, but not very loudly". This falls into the same category as the former point; it seems too odd a detail to add to a faked testimony. Logically, an assaulted woman could be expected to cry out at the top of her voice, but in this case Schwartz judged the keeping down of the voice so significant that it stuck in his mind.
It has been suggested that the reason for Stride keeping her voice down may have been due to her taking BS for just another drunken ruffian, implying that she would not have been too intimidated by his actions. But I do not see such a relaxed attitude applying during the Ripper scare - Stride lost her life little more than three weeks after Annie Chapman´s death, and Chapman´s death was a horrendous one, taking the street panic to an unprecedented peak. By reason, any physical violence by an unknown assailant would have terrified each and every streetwalker submitted to it.
After giving his evidence to the police, Schwartz was hounded down by the press, and gave his story to them, but with a few changes. Perhaps the most obvious change was that he now said that the man with the pipe had been coming at him with a knife in his hand. To some, that inconsistency points towards a faked testimony. Instead, I believe that it should be regarded as an effort on Schwartz´s behalf to brush up on the picture of himself that emerged from the police interrogation; in hindsight it provided him with a good explanation as to why he did not stop and try to help Stride instead of running.
The man who assaulted Stride outside Dutfields Yard is generally known as Broad Shoulders (BS). Since his attack occurred so very close in time to when Stride was found in the yard with her throat cut (1.00 AM), it has been put forward that he could have been the Ripper. That view, of course, collides with the picture of a swift, silent, determined, cunning killer. There is a lot more of a street thug to BS:s approach, attacking in the street with two witnesses present and admitting the victim to cry out. No wonder, then, that it has been speculated that BS must have left the scene, leaving Jack to fill in for the assailants role.
Such a scenario is filled with problems, though: The window of time for Jack to make his entrance is precious small, and for some reason he did not mutilate Stride though it would seem that he had ample time to do so. Historically, it has been put forward that he probably was disturbed by Louis Diemschutz, the steward of The International Working Mens Educational Club, arriving in the yard with his cart and pony.
To accept this notion, we must accept that the Ripper was not only disturbed before he could start mutilating Stride - he was in fact disturbed in the very split second when he slit her throat, resulting in Stride being the sole victim in the series who had only one side of the throat deeply cut, and at that only relatively deeply; the left carotid artery was not completely severed.
We also have the question of the cachous, still held in Strides´ left hand when she was found. Why would she bring them out in Jacks presence? A scenario including a suggested fellatio has been proposed, but why bring the cachous out before performing the act? In fact, there is no logic at all in combining the cauchous with any form of suggested sex, at least not before performing it.
So what do we need to make the pieces fit? The answer is that we need something that probably was exactly what Israel Schwartz thought he was witnessing on that September night: a domestic quarrel. And we need to free ourselves of the notion that Strides errand into the yard was prostitution. When doing this we find that the mystery pieces of the case will suddenly no longer beg for useful fantasy; not only will they fall in place completely naturally, they will in fact reinforce the credibility of the domestic death scenario.
As many debaters have underlined over the years, there are a lot of pointers indicating that Stride was not prostituting herself on the murder night. She obviously dressed up as well as she could, she tried to borrow a clothing brush from her fellow doss-house companion Charles Preston, she wore a flower pinned to her chest and she was spotted early in the evening at The Bricklayer´s Arms by witnesses Best and Gardner with a male companion, kissing and hugging him affectionately - something that does not tally with the normal pattern of prostitution.
It should be kept in mind that though the Rippers victims engaged in prostitution, they did not do it as a full time occupation; one example is Catherine Eddowes´ hop-picking in Kent, something that Annie Chapman also spoke about as a way to earn money. These women would probably engage in most any opportunity that came their way to make ends meet, and it is a fair guess that they would resort to prostitution only as a final way out.
As for the notion that Stride would often frequent Berner Streer for soliciting, we have Diemschutz´s comment from the Evening News of October 1:st: "She seemed to me to be a more respectable sort of woman than we generally see about these parts. I conclude this because it appears that nobody about here had ever seen or heard anything about her before."
Now, when we, together with Schwartz, meet Liz Stride outside Dutfields Yard on the murder evening, she is alone. She could be waiting for someone, perhaps the male friend from earlier that evening. Maybe she has said goodbye to him, and actually decided to spend the rest of the evening soliciting, to earn money for her bed back at the doss-house. We do not know.
She is accosted by BS, who first talks to her and thereafter tries to pull her out into the street, a very curious thing to do if you are intent on assaulting a lonely woman.
Now, change the perspective, and turn BS into a close acquaintance of Stride´s, finding her in a situation where she seems to be soliciting. What would a disapproving acquaintance do? Of course: make her stop soliciting, and leave the premises.
And this indeed seems to be exactly what BS does. He first says something to her, probably trying to persuade her to leave. And when that fails, he tries to drag her with him, out into the street. She resists, and in the tug of war that follows, BS looses his grip, and Stride falls to the ground.
As BS manhandles her she cries out three times, "but not very loudly". By this time she is well aware that there are two men present on Berner Street, Schwartz and Pipeman, who can see - and hear - what is going on. So what does she do? She lowers her voice, the way you do when you tell an acquaintance or a friend off in the company of strangers.
The next thing that happens, according to the frightened Schwartz, is that BS cries out "Lipski!". Schwartz cannot, though, say to whom the word is directed, himself or Pipeman. As he is traversing the street by this time, passing outside the yard, he may well have his back more or less turned on BS. This would explain why he cannot state the direction of the cry.
There is, of course, another possibility: that BS in frustration shouted out "Lizzie!" to the non-complying Stride.
One thing that must be considered here is that what we hear, we also interpret. Sometimes this is very easy, at other occasions we are obliged to interpret wordings that we are unsure of. At such occasions we will search our minds for reasonable interpretations and stick with the one that seems most credible.
An example: If we meet someone who look up into the sky over our heads, before crying out "Ook lout!", we will, guided by context and word resemblance, make the assumption that "Look out!" is the correct nature of the message,.
In Schwartz´s case, we are dealing with a frightened man who did not speak a word of English. There was no way that he would have interpreted BS:s cry as "Lizzie", for the simple reasons that he did not know Stride´s Christian name, that Hungarian women are not christened Lizzie, and that the context spoke to him of a dangerous situation.
Moreover, if BS had wanted to taunt or frighten Schwartz or Pipeman, it would have made a lot more sense to add one or two words: "I´ll Lipski you!" or "Bugger off, Lipski!" or something along those lines. That would have made his message a lot clearer.
The Lipski mentioned, Israel Lipski, a murderer who was convicted and executed in 1887, had divided parts of Whitechapel into one "for" and one "against" camp, and therefore it would make poor sense not to add something to the name.
If BS shouted "Lizzie!", though, there was no need whatsoever to fill the message out with further words - it all makes perfect sense using just the one word.
The incident resulted in Schwartz and Pipeman leaving the scene, also leaving Stride alone with BS. And, not to forget, leaving the major part of the Ripperologists with the task of finding a trustworthy scenario where Stride either steps into the pitch dark yard with her assailant, or gets rid of him and is confronted with the Ripper, who is in turn desperately unlucky with Diemschutz´s arrival, or runs into a third character of a murderous mind. And all the while when this happens, she is nibbling away at her cachous.
Again, shift the perspective, regard BS as an acquaintance who is well known to Stride. She has already tried to make him stop his attack with three lowered cries, and now she is very disappointed and upset with his behaviour. She decides to give him a good scolding, but she is just as reluctant to do it out in the street now as she was when she lowered her cries in the presence of strangers before.
Given this, which is the nearest place where she can tell him off more or less in private? Absolutely; the yard.
So she steps in there with a frustrated man who is perhaps also a bit drunk, and she has nothing soothing to tell him. She may even have let him know that she was ending her acquaintance with him for good. No matter what she said, at some stage it is enough to make him pull out his knife.
One interesting part of such a scenario is that it offers the possibility of time passing after the couple went into the yard. We do not have to surmise that there was a swift kill. On the contrary: there would probably have elapsed some significant time before Stride made the remark that made BS pull his knife out. At least as much time as it took for Stride to brush herself off, settle down a bit and take her cachous out, in a setting where a packet of cachous would be perfectly natural to produce.
This means that we leave BS with three different possibilities to escape out of the yard, depending on when Stride received her wound; either very close to 12.45, before the watchful Mrs Mortimer entered her doorstep, or immediately after she left that same step and went indoors. Then he would have left just before Diemshutz´s cart rounded the corner up at Commercial Street. The third, very intriguing possibility is, of course, as has always been theorized, that the killer was in fact interrupted by Diemschutz. But if so, he was in all probability not interrupted in the act of killing. Everything points to Strides throat being cut at the very latest around 12.56, and Diemschutz did not arrive until 1.00. And as we shall see, there may have been a perfectly good reason for BS to stay in the yard even after Strides throat was cut.
So then, in what way was BS interrupted? To understand that I believe that we must occupy ourselves with the "mystery of the bloody right hand".
In an issue of "Ripper Notes" (Number 25), Tom Wescott argues that the mysterious blood on Strides right hand was transferred by Edward Johnston, a doctor´s apprentice in the care of doctor Blackwell and his colleague doctor Kaye. Wescott theorizes that Johnston must have gotten Strides blood on his own hand while unbuttoning her clothing at the throat and feeling for her pulse, subsequently transferring the blood to her hand when trying to find a pulse at her wrist.
During the Stride inquest, doctor Phillips commented on the blood on Stride´s hand with the following words: "It is a mystery. There were small oblong clots on the back of the hand." From Phillips and also from other sources we have information of the fact that there was blood on the inside of the wrist too. Wescott argues that this is in accordance with Johnston measuring the pulse at the wrist.
Ingenious though it may sound, there are numerous objections that must be made here:
-Edward Spooner lifted Strides head by her chin, PC Lamb felt her face, and both successfully avoided getting smeared with blood. Why would a doctor´s apprentice, guided by a policemans lantern, be any clumsier? He had no reason at all to prod any fingers inside Strides wound.
-If we surmise that there were four fingerprints on the back of the hand and a thumbprint on the wrist, Phillips would not have stated that it was "a mystery". He, having seen hundreds of bloodied fingerprints throughout his career, would have stated that there were fingerprints on Strides hand, no more, no less.
-Johnston would have seen the significance of the same fingerprints and he would have recognized that he was the one who most probably had transferred the blood. He would furthermore have noticed the blood on his hands, as he must have washed them at the first opportunity after having examined Stride.
On noticing that blood on his hand, would he have asked himself: "I wonder where that came from?" And keep in mind that the issue of the bloody hand must have been endlessly debated between the doctors involved at the time.
-If Johnston actually did transfer the blood to Strides hand, then why did he not transfer any blood at all to the places, among others Strides chest, where he felt for bodily warmth after having felt for her pulse? Surely the priority of Johnson must have been to feel for the pulse first, and only thereafter check for bodily warmth.
- Johnston felt Strides wrist for a pulse, but which wrist would he choose to touch? The right hand, where the wrist was turned away from him, towards Strides chest, or the left one, readily accessible and lying with the wrist turned up? The latter seems the more obvious choice, since Johnston would only have to reach over Stride and put his fingers against the wrist, lying firmly on the ground.
-Edward Johnston was fastest off the mark when the news of a cut woman in Berner Street reached the practice of doctors Blackwell and Kaye in Commercial Road . He hurried away towards Dutfields Yard to see if there was anything he could do for the victim. To carry out the examination, should the woman already be dead, was Blackwells task, though. Therefore Johnstons role would have been to check the body for signs of life , and, if such signs were found, he would have had free hands to try and save Stride. If he, as was the case, should find that the woman was beyond salvation, his instructions must have been to do exactly what he did: Check the body for warmth, and then leave it as untouched as possible, waiting for doctor Blackwell to arrive.
In Wescotts essay, he states that Louis Diemschutz and Isaac Kozebrodsky saw what they believed to be grapes in Strides right hand when it was opened by the doctor, and he argues that this doctor must have been Johnston, who was the first medical man on stage. The "grapes", says Wescott, must have been the dots of blood later found on Strides hand.
Wescott means that these are the first sightings of blood on the hand. And since neither PC Lamb or Edward Spooner, who were the only ones to touch Stride before the arrival of Edward Johnston, spoke of having noticed any blood on the right hand, Wescotts states that this must lead to the conclusion that the blood was transferred to the hand by Johnston.
One interesting fact in the case of PC Lamb, Wescotts points out, is that it is obvious that Lamb never noticed that there were three doctors present at Dutfields Yard. For Lamb states that doctor Blackwell was the first doctor to arrive, and he also says that Blackwell was examining the body before the gates were closed.
This was in fact not so, as Wescott correctly states; Blackwell recognized that the gates were closed when he arrived, and thus Johnston would have been the doctor who Lamb saw examining Stride from the outset.
What does this prove? It proves that Johnston and Blackwell could easily be confused with each other, even with a trained policeman as a witness. Add to this that PC Lambs´ statement was made and recorded at the Stride enquiry, whilst Diemschutz´s and Kozebrodskis sightings were reported in The Evening News, leaving us with the journalist middle hand as a further possible source of confusing the medicos.
Thus I suggest that we must accept the fact that Diemschutz´s and Kozebrodskis sighting of the grapes/blood on Strides hand happened as Blackwell opened the hands of the victim, something that Johnston never did, according to his own inquest statement: "I left the body precisely as I found it".
As earlier stated, Wescott specifically mentions two participators in Dutfields Yard as contributing evidence that Wescott means is in agreement with his own theory. These two are Edward Spooner and PC Lamb. They were the only two persons known to have touched Stride before Johnston did, and it is their experiences that Wescott uses in his scenario.
Of Spooner he states that he neither in his statement to the press nor during his inquest testimony mentioned anything about seeing grapes or blood by Strides hand. He had, though, noticed the cachous pack in Strides left hand and the flowers pinned to her clothing. Strides right hand, argues Wescott, would have laid close to the flowers, actually closer to Spooner than the left hand in which he had spotted the paper tissue round the cachous. Therefore, says Wescott, the right hand must have been in Spooners line of sight, leaving no other logical explanation to the fact that he saw no blood on it than that blood ending up on the hand after Spooners sighting.
What we must keep in mind here was that Stride was lying on her left side, with her right hand across the body. This points out the possibility that what Spooner was facing as he leant in over the body, was two hands that were posed in right angles to each other. The left hand was lying, palm up, directly facing Spooner. The right hand would have been more or less hanging down at a ninety degree angle to the left hand and the ground. This, of course, means that to see the back of the right hand, you would have to reach in over and past it! Accepting this, we are also provided with a simple and logic explanation to Johnstons words at the inquest: "I did not notice at the time that one of the hands was smeared with blood"; Johnston would have seen the right hand from the same awkward angle as did Spooner, and as he had adamantly stated, he did not move the body. The police lantern he was guided by, would have shone on the left hand, leaving the right one completely in the black shade of the yard. And it was not until Blackwell took hold of the right hand and lifted it, that it became readily visible to Diemschutz, Kozebrodski and the other witnesses standing around the scene.
One more point: Spooners observation of the bunch of flowers seems to imply that he could see some way down Strides body, as they would have been on the left side of Strides clothing; that is where right-handed people by rule place such things.
It seems though, that Stride was an exception to the rule. In all probability, she was left-handed! This we can conclude from the interview that the Daily News made with Isaac Kozebrodsky on the first of October. In that interview, Kozebrodsky states "I saw a little bunch of flowers stuck above her right bosom". Had it been on the other side, he would probably not have noticed them, given Strides position on her left side.
P C Lamb, finally! He testified at Strides inquest that he felt the victims face and thereafter felt for a pulse on the wrist. This, writes Wescott, must have been the right wrist, since Lamb did not notice the cachous. Wescott states that coroner Baxter asked Lamb whether he had noticed anything in Strides right hand, whereupon Lamb answered in the negative.
Let us begin with the first point; the cachous. Why did Lamb not notice them? Perhaps the best explanation was offered by doctor Blackwell at the inquest, where he stated that "The packet was lodged between the thumb and the first finger, and was partially hidden from view." Indeed, when we move on to the next point, it is evident that Lamb most certainly had a look at the left hand, without noticing the cachous.
What Wescott states about the alleged question to Lamb, whether he had noticed anything in the right hand of Stride or not, requires that we turn again to the inquest. There we find this wording about the matter:
Coroner Baxter: " Did you observe how the deceased was lying?"
PC Lamb: "She was lying on her left side, with her left hand on the ground. "
Coroner Baxter: "Was there anything in that hand?"
PC Lamb: "I did not notice anything. The right arm was across the breast."
And so it never was the right hand Lamb was referring to; it was the left! And the logical explanation to why he said "the right arm was across the breast" is that he wanted to point out that he could say nothing about any eventual contents in that hand, as he could not readily see it. Significantly, he does not even mention the hand - he chooses to speak of the right arm.
Wescotts conclusion after having presented his theory is that the blood on the hand "must be excluded as being a genuine piece of crime scene evidence". I would say exactly the contrary; everything speaks in favour for the blood being not only true crime scene evidence, it may also strongly reinforce the domestic scenario. To find out how, we must discuss what was it that prompted Phillips to describe the blood on the hand as a mystery.
If we accept that a medical man of his calibre would immediately have recognized the impressions in blood of five fingers feeling for a pulse, we are obviously seeking for another appearance of the hand. It must, however, include oblong clots of blood on the back of it and a bloody mark on the inside of the wrist.
My suggestion is that we try to imagine larger quantities of blood than what would have been the case if a professional pulse palpation had been carried out. Such a palpation would have resulted in a very clear set of fingerprints on the skin.
We must probably also add enough clots to diminish the doctors chances of recognizing them as a set of fingerprints, maybe six, seven, eight or more clots on the backside of the hand. Also, a larger bloodstain on the inside of the wrist should probably be expected, all of which something that would not have been the case with a medico involved.
In short, I believe that we must once again shift our perspective, and open up for the possibility that BS panicked after Stride being cut, and in great distress and fear tried to feel for her pulse in the darkness, using his own bloodied hand.
Four things give strength to such a scenario:
1. If BS had enough blood on his hands, he would leave clots, not fingerprints. And the blood on his hands would be very fresh and in no way congealed, thus much more likely to leave no fingerprint impressions, only dots with blank surfaces.
Johnston probably arrived at Dutfields Yard at around 01.12-01.13, and himself stated that the blood was no longer flowing from Strides neck by then. This would have resulted in the blood having started to congeal. Thus, any blood picked up by Johnston would have been decidedly more prone to leave fingerprints, not clots. In fact, the congealing of the blood would also make it very probable that Johnson would have noticed if his hand came in contact with it, since it would have felt slightly sticky at that time.
Crucial to the notion of Johnston perhaps getting smeared with blood without noticing it, is of course to what extent he was in control of what he was doing, how much blood there was present by Strides wound and neck and what Johnston could see of the scene. And if we read the Daily Telegraph of the 4:th of October 1888, we are given a clear picture of these points, by Johnston himself, who in an interview said: "There was a stream of blood down to the gutter; it was all clotted. There was very little blood near the neck; it had all run away."
Are these circumstances under which a trained medical man would, himself unaware of it, get smeared with blood? For sure, they are not. In fact, until Blackwell arrived at the scene, the one person who would be most lightly to be able to handle an injured body without getting contaminated with blood, was Edward Johnston.
2. Perhaps most importantly: not knowing that medicos use their index and middle fingers to feel for the pulse, in order not to feel their own thumb pulse, BS would probably do what those ignorant of the fact generally do: try to feel for the pulse using the thumb, thus leaving a thumb-mark on the inside of the wrist and clots from the rest of his fingers on the back of the hand.
With a medico doing the palpation, the clots would of course have been distributed in exactly the opposite way!
To find out how a pulse palpation would have been carried out by a doctor back in 1888, I contacted professor Karin Johannisson at Uppsala University, who, besides from being a doctor of both medicine and physiology, is also a renowned scientist into medical history with a number of published and highly rewarded books on the subject. This is the answer I received:
" I consulted my own book "Tecknen" (which would translate into "The signs"), which partly deals with the history of medical examinations, and where I published four pictures of pulse palpation, all of them details of Dutch paintings. In all of the cases, the doctors thumb is placed on the back of the hand or the upper side of the wrist, though with some variations between the pictures. On page 31, I describe Hufelands directions from 1839, stating that three or four fingers should be used at the wrist.
That a doctor would have used his thumb to palpate the pulse is not credible.
3. Phillips describes the blood on the back of the hand as "small" oblong clots. Given that Liz Stride was a frail woman with a height of no more than 5 ft 2, her hands would in all probability have been quite small too. If we imagine a skilled medical man taking her pulse, he would press his fingers gently but firmly against her hand and wrist, thus making imprints that would not look small on such a hand - his four fingerprints would most certainly cover a major part of the surface of the back of the hand.
But if we imagine a man who is terrified with what he has just done, we can also imagine a man who almost does not dare to touch his victim, a man who hesitatingly and trembling only just touches the hand with the very tips of his fingers, praying to find a pulse with his thumb, desperately changing the setting of his fingers in his search, thus producing a number of small, oblong clots and smears of blood …
4. PC Lamb saw to it that the doors of Dutfields Yard were closed, thereby not admitting any of the people who had gathered around Liz´s body to leave. There were close to thirty people in the yard, and they all had their hands examined by the doctors for blood. There was none. And if the blood was not on the fingers of somebody at the scene, it must have been on the hands of somebody who had already left.
At this stage I will ask you to consider one of the mysteries of the Stride case that have gone very much unnoticed. At the inquest, doctor Phillips stated that "Examining her jacket I found that although there was a slight amount of mud on the right side, the left was well plastered with mud."
It must be asked how some mud ended up on the right side. We know that the mud on her left side came from lying down on that side. But she did not lie on the right side at any time. Schwartz´s sighting tells of Stride being thrown to the ground, but if she had landed on her right side, it would have resulted in a good deal of mud there, not just a slight amount. So where did it come from? I will allow myself to speculate here.
Mud came from having your clothes in contact with the ground. If we imagine the quarrel between Stride and BS in the yard resulting in him pulling out his knife to threaten Stride, maybe putting it to her throat in a fashion that would be reminiscent of every womans worst fear that autumn, then it would be very possible that Stride could have tried to wriggle herself loose from BS´s grip, just as she had done out in the street earlier. And in the following struggle, the couple may have fallen over in the muddy yard, resulting in Stride having her throat cut and ending up on her left side, and with BS landing on his stomach in the mud. Then, getting up from his fall, realizing what had happened to Stride, he reaches in over her, and his worst fears come true as he touches her neck in the darkness, getting his hand more or less splashed with fresh blood. Highly distressed, he grabs her right hand and fumbles for her pulse. And while he does this, the mud from his clothes rubs of on her right side, leaving us with another riddle to solve.
There is, of course, no evidence whatsoever to support such a part of the total scenario. But since all other parts offered to us will readily fit in with a scenario of a domestic death, I think it is a possibility that deserves serious consideration.
Lastly, what has often been referred to as a canard, the Church Lane sighting, may be revived again, in a different context than the normal one.
Around 1.30 on the night of the double event a man was reported to have been spotted wiping his hands, sitting on a doorstep in Church Lane. It was said that he turned his face away as the witness looked at him.
The text of the Star in full:
"From two different sources we have the story that a man, when passing through Church Lane at about half past one, saw a man sitting on a doorstep and wiping his hands. As everyone is on the lookout for the murderer the man looked at the stranger with a certain amount of suspicion, where upon he tried to conceal his face. He is described as a man who wore a short jacket and a sailor's hat."
The story has not won much acclaim, for a number of reasons. One is that it seems very late for Strides killer to be in Church Lane; he would have reached that address in a matter of minutes. Then again, it was amply proved during the Stride inquest that most eastenders had very few means to judge the time from, and sometimes they were gravely mistaken. Edward Spooner, for example, said at the Stride inquest: "I believe it was twenty-five minutes to one o'clock when I arrived in the yard", thereby missing out on about half an hour.
Another objection to the Church Lane sighting is that it would seem strange to loiter for a lengthy time there, considering that the Ripper had a historical rendezvous with Catherine Eddowes at Mitre Square to keep.
But if we rule out Jack, and replace him with a devastated BS, perhaps having been interrupted by Diemschutz, not in the midst of killing Stride but in the midst of trying to save her, we can explain why he is sitting on that doorstep in Church Lane afterwards, desperately trying to wipe away his deed from his hands.
And we may also lend a thought to the fact that those who claim that the sighting of the Church Lane man actually could be correct, and who point out that Church Lane is not too bad a choice for the Rippers journey to Mitre Square, are only beaten by those who realize that the very same Church Lane lies along the absolutely fastest and most secluded route between Dutfields Yard and number 38 Dorset Street, where, at the inquest, Strides abusive common-law husband, Michael Kidney, stated he lived.