|A Ripperologist Article|
|This article originally appeared in Ripperologist No. 35, June 2001. 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. Subscribe to Ripperologist.|
The 1841 and 1851 census returns list a fruiterer named Philip Lewis residing at 24 Mitre Street, Aldgate. The 1851 census also lists Philip's daughter, Amelia Lewis, living with her father. In the 1861 and 1871 returns Philip Lewis is residing at 21 Mitre Street and Amelia is living at 24 Mitre Street with her grandfather Henry Lyons.
On October 31st 1866 Amelia Lewis married a butcher named Joseph Hyam Levy of 1 Hutchinson Street, Aldgate, and by the time of her marriage Amelia was living with her father at 21 Mitre Street.
Joseph Hyam Levy was one of three men who had observed a man in the company of Catharine Eddowes at about 1.30 am on the morning of September 30th 1888 inside the covered entrance to Church Passage which led into Mitre Square, adjacent to Mitre Street. Minutes later Catharine was found murdered and extensively mutilated in the south-western corner of the Square, which was immediately outside the back of a shop at 8-9 Mitre Street owned by a Mr Taylor.
The couple were particularly observed by Joseph Levy and they alarmed him to a certain degree as he reportedly remarked to his companion, Harry Harris, "I don't like going home by myself when I see these sort of characters about… I'm off!" And he further remarked that the court (meaning Mitre Square) ought to be watched.
The Evening News for the 9 October 1888 reported that 'Mr Joseph 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 and when pressed further by the City Solicitor he denied thinking their appearance as 'terrible' and went on to add that he was 'not exactly' afraid for himself. So, who exactly was he afraid for?
Could Joseph Levy have recognised the man as an acquaintance or a possible relative, perhaps a relative to his wife, Amelia Lewis? Could this explain why he chose to withhold evidence?
The 1841, 1851 and 1861 census returns list an Ann Levy, a cigar dealer and fruiterer respectively as residing at 29 Mitre Street, Aldgate. Ann was born in Aldgate, as was Joseph Levy's father Hyam Levy, and she was the mother of John, Lewis, Samuel and Fanny Levy. In due course Fanny Levy would marry a man named Solomon Hyams - the 1871 census returns list Solomon as a cigar maker and head of the household, but by 1881 the head of the household is listed as Fanny. The London Postal Directory for 1888 records Fanny Hyams with a business as a fruiterer and still residing at 29 Mitre Street. By 1891 she is found at 24 Mitre Street, formerly the home of Amelia Lewis.
The 1861 census returns also list Fanny Hyams' brother, Samuel, as residing next door to the Lewis household at 20 Mitre Street.
From this information it is reasonable to suggest that Joseph Hyam Levy knew the namesake Levy family and the Hyams family through his wife Amelia Lewis.
On February 8th 1855 a son was born to Fanny and Solomon Hyams who they named Hyam.
The 1861 census returns and London Business Directories list Hyam Hyams' uncle, Lewis Levy as residing at and running a cigar manufacturing business at 8 Mitre Street, Aldgate, and it was immediately outside the back window of this particular dwelling (in 1888 to be the shop run by Mr Taylor) that Catharine Eddowes was found murdered in Mitre Square.
Another of the Levy brothers, John, is listed in the 1881 census return and in the 1884 London Business Directory as living at and running a cigar manufacturing business from 254 Whitechapel Road (about half a mile from Mitre Square). Next door, at 253, was a Mrs. Norah Christmas, who ran a shirt and collar shop. On her doorstep at about 12.30 a.m. on October 1st 1888, the day following Eddowes's murder, a man named Thomas Coram found a knife with the handle wrapped in a blood-soaked handkerchief. (The Postal Directories for 1888-89 list 252, 253 and 254 as neighbours on the south side of the Whitechapel Road.
On December 29th 1888 Hyam Hyams, the son of Fanny Levy and Solomon Hyams, was due to give an address at 217 Jubilee Street, Mile End. Three months earlier, in October, a strange man had called at 218 Jubilee Street, a leather shop owned by a Mr. Marsh, and had spoken to Emily, Mr Marsh's daughter, asking for the address of George Lusk, Chairman of the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee. A short while later Mr Lusk feared that a sinister bearded man was watching his house. On October 16th he received through the post a parcel containing half a human kidney and a letter addressed 'From Hell'. The kidney was widely associated with Catharine Eddowes.
It is curious that we therefore have three sites associated in some way with the murders, most specifically with the murder of Eddowes, and each linked in some way with Hyam Hyams.
At about 6.00 on the morning of December 29 1888, Hyam Hyams was picked up by the Metropolitan Police in Leman Street, Whitechapel, and taken to the Whitechapel Workhouse Infirmary, suffering from delirium tremens. On January 11th 1889 he was finally discharged, but was re-admitted on 15th April and transferred to the Colney Hatch lunatic asylum under restraint and in a noisy condition. On August 30th he was discharged as recovered, but on 9th September that same year, after being labelled 'the terror of the City of London Police', he was delivered to the City of London lunatic asylum at Stone, Kent, as an insane person. On January 4 1890 he was transferred to the Colney Hatch asylum, where he remained for the duration of his life, dying on March 22, 1913 from exhaustion of epilepsy and cardio-vascular degeneration. Throughout his incarceration he was described as violent, threatening, noisy and destructive, and he continuously attacked other patients and members of staff alike, at one time creeping up behind a medical officer as he was passing through the ward and stabbing him in the neck with a makeshift knife.
His wife (who had suffered four miscarriages and one of her husband's delusions that she had been sexually unfaithful) had stated that for the past nine years (since pre-1889) he had suffered from periodical epileptic attacks whereupon afterwards he became progressively violent. It was also noted in his records that he practiced self-abuse and was previously addicted to drink.
Hyam Hyams' asylum records also reveal that he had at one time stabbed his wife and at another time seriously injured his mother in the head after striking her with a hatchet.*
He was, it appears, at times kind, civil and industrious, but at others a crafty and dangerous maniac.
Epilepsy and insanity seems to have run in the Levy side of his family, his maternal uncle had died insane and his grandfather had died from epilepsy aged 36.
We know, also, that a Jacob Levy, a butcher who occupied Joseph Hyam Levy's former home at 36 Middlesex Street, was committed to the City of London lunatic asylum on August 15 1890, dying there on July 29 1891 from syphilis. His brother, Abraham, had hanged himself on May 26 1875 whilst of unsound mind.
Joseph Lawende, one of Joseph Hyam Levy's companions on the night when he saw Catharine Eddowes and a man, described the man he'd seen as about thirty years old, of medium build and about 5 feet 7 inches to 5feet 8 inches tall. The Daily Telegraph, February 18, 1891 printed a similar description of the man as aged between 30-35 years, 5 feet 7 inches tall, with brown hair and a large moustache. A man seen with Mary Kelly was also described as of Jewish appearance, about 5 feet 6 inches tall and aged about 34 or 35.
Hyam Hyams was a Jew, aged 33, of medium build, 5 feet 7 inches tall, with brown hair and - in a photograph of him taken c.1893-99 - sported a large moustache.
If Elizabeth Stride and Catharine Eddowes were murdered by the same hand, the murderer headed west from Berner Street towards Aldgate, perhaps along Commercial Road and Aldgate High Street, meeting Catharine Eddowes outside Church Passage leading into both Mitre Square and Mitre Street - where lived Hyam Hyams' mother.
Although most serial killers seem to become quite calm following incarceration, Hyam Hyams was dangerous and violent, which could count against him as a potential Ripper. On the other hand, his chronic abuse of alcohol, delusions and inherited epilepsy leading to outbursts of extreme violence, may be considered evidence in favour, as, perhaps, his delusion about his wife's infidelity have led him to focus on prostitutes.
And what happened to Joseph Hyam Levy? He was last recorded in the business directories trading as a butcher in 1892. He then became a partner with Charles Lazarus in the loan business, operating from premises in Mansell Street, Aldgate. With Amelia he moved to Brighton, where he dies in 1911, followed by Amelia in 1912.