"In the memory of Elizabeth Stride - Jack the Rippers third victim"
By Stefan Rantzow
The contrast in the background with the modern buildings and the old Victorian house in the foreground is quite stark. Looking at the photo I can't help but wonder if the people in the area today knows what really once took place in it? The building, now nearly falling apart, is located at the back of the parish of Saint George in London. In 1904, it became the Nature Study Museum but before that it had a very bloody and morbid function when it became a part to one of the largest crime investigations of all time. Between 1877 and 1904 this building was called St. George's Mortuary. If the walls in this building could speak they probably would reveal some horrible details concerning the dissection of a woman which was found in a dark yard at Berner Street (now Henriques Street) on the 30 September 1888. She was born in Sweden and her name was Elizabeth Stride. If the walls could speak they probably would reveal the name of her murderer. He probably had passed by the mortuary many times when lurking the streets of Whitechapel. But we know only his nickname: Jack the Ripper.
Her maiden name was Elisabeth Gustafsdotter, born on the 27 November 1843 in a small village, named Torslanda, near Gothenburg in Sweden, on a small farm of four houses called, "Stora Tumlehed". Her parents where Gustaf Ericsson and Beata Carlsdotter. She had an older sister, named Anna Kristina (born in 1840) and two brothers, named,
Carl Bernhard (born in 1848) and Svante Gustafsson (born in 1851). Elisabeth was confirmed in 1859 in the parish of Torslanda by a Priest, named Karl Gustaf Schoug and on the 14 October 1860 she moved to the town of Gothenburg. Her sister Anna Kristina
had already moved to Gothenburg in 1857 to seek work. Her mother Beata, then still living at the farm in Torslanda, died in 1864 and at this time her two sons moved away from the farm. Elisabeth took work as a domestic for a man in Gothenburg, named Lars Frederick Olofsson, a workman with 4 children. In March 1865 she was registered by the police as a prostitute and the next month, on April 21, she gave birth to a stillborn baby girl. At this time she is lived on a street, called Pilgatan, in the east area of Haga. Haga is a suburb of Gothenburg. This notorious district was a dangerous area for ordinary people to visit at that time, as it was infamous for the drunken sailors coming from the ships in the nearby harbour. Pilgatan was particularly notorious for its prostitutes. Nearly all the old houses of that time period were demolished in the late 1970-80's and modern houses are now located on Philgatan. Not a sign of the old days can been seen on this street today. In October she was treated at a hospital, called Kurhuset for venereal disease but was reported healthy in November that year. In the same year her father, who was now living alone in the house in Torslanda sold it to a man, named Lars Carlsson who was the brother of his deceased wife. All the children, Elisabeth included, received some money from the selling of the farm which might have helped her to buy a ticket for her passage to England.
30 September 1888.
Several people noticed Elisabeth Stride on the last night of her life. One of them was police constable William Smith, 452, from H Division. He went on duty at 22.00, and his beat was past Berner Street. It would take him twenty-five minutes to half an hour to do his round and he was in Berner Street about 12.30 or 12.35. Having gone round his beat, he was back at the Commercial Road corner of Berner Street again at 01.00. He recalled that he had noticed a man and woman, talking together, and that the woman was the same person whose body he later found in Berner Street. She had stood on the pavement a few yards from where the body was found, but on the opposite side of the street. William did not noticed the face of the man pretty well but said that he was about 5ft. 7", he wore a dark felt deerstalker's hat and that his clothes were dark, the coat a cutaway. He was about twenty-eight years of age and seemingly of respectable class but he could not state what occupation he held. He also had a parcel wrapped in a newspaper in his hand. The parcel was about 18" long and 6" to 8" in width. But he had not overheard any conversation and they both seemed to be sober. The woman had a flower in her breast. Could the mysterious man with the parcel have been Jack the Ripper? Possibly. But it was actually Mr Lewis Diemschutz at 40 Berner Street, who found the body of Elisabeth Stride. He assisted in management, was the steward of the International Workmen's Club living with his wife at the club as well. Mr Diemschutz had been to the market near the Crystal Palace, and had a barrow like a costermonger's, drawn by a pony, which he kept in George Yard, Cable Street. He drove home to deliver his goods and drove into the yard; both gates being wide open. It was rather dark there. Suddenly his pony shied at some object on the right. He looked to see what the object was, and observed that there was something unusual, but could not tell what it was. It was a dark object. He put his whip handle to it, and tried to lift it up, but not succeed. Then he jumped down from the barrow and struck a match. It was rather windy, and Lewis could only get sufficient light to see that there was some figure there. He could tell from the dress that it was the body of a woman. Later Mr Diemschutz got a candle from the club and went into the yard again, where he saw blood before he reached the body.
St. Georges Mortuary.
The body was examined, first at the backyard by Dr Fredrick William Blackwell with his assistant Mr Johnston and then later with Dr George Baxter Phillips, surgeon of the H Division of Police. Dr Phillips said: The body was lying on its left side, the face being turned towards the wall, the head towards the yard, and the feet toward the street. The left arm was extended from elbow, and a packet of cachous was in the hand. I took them from the hand and gave them to Dr. Blackwell. The right arm was lying over the body, and the back of the hand and wrist had clotted blood on them. The legs were drawn up, feet close to the wall, body still warm, face warm, hands cold, legs quite warm, silk handkerchief around the throat, slightly torn. About 04.30 the body was removed to St. Georges Mortuary. She was dressed in an old black skirt, dark-brown velvet bodice, a long black jacket trimmed with black fur, fastened on the right side, with a red rose backed by a maidenhair fern. She also wore two light serge petticoats, white stockings, white chemise with insertion, side-spring boots, and a black crepe bonnet. In her jacket pocket were two handkerchiefs, a thimble, and a piece of wool on a card. On 1 October, at 15.00, Dr. Blackwell and Dr Reigtae performed a post - mortem. The murderer probably caught hold of her silk scarf, which was tightly knotted, and pulled the deceased's head backwards, thereby slitting her throat. Maybe the throat was cut as she was falling, or when she was on the ground. But something must have gone wrong, as it was unlike many of the other ripper victims. Elizabeth was not particularly mutilated. The theory is that Jack the Ripper was interrupted as Diemschutz approach at the backyard in Berner Street with his pony. He probably slipped back into the night when Diemschutz went out from the yard looking for a policeman. He found a new victim that same night. This time her name was Catherine Eddowes and she was found in a dark corner of Mitre Square. There was, at first, some problem with the identification of the deceased woman from Berner Street, but one of the first people who identified Elisabeth Stride at the St. George Mortuary was the Swedish clerk, Sven Olsson from the Swedish Church, who told Mr Wynne E. Baxter, coroner for East Middlesex at the inquest in Vestry Hall, Cable Street that the dead woman was Elizabeth Stride but her maiden name was Elisabeth Gustafsdotter, born in the village Torslanda near Gothenburg in Sweden. Elizabeth stride was buried on Saturday, 6 October 1888 at the East Cemetery Churchyard in London. A gravestone, which is rather new with her name on it, marks her grave.
After the murder.
What happened to the old farm in Torslanda, Sweden?
Her friend Sven Olsson at the Swedish Church in London?
Her sister and two brothers?
The house still stands today.
It's a bit ironic to read that Elizabeth often went out and drank, as her former home is now a summer home for people who have problems with alcohol.
Sven Olsson married a second wife in London, went back to Sweden in 1899 and fathered four daughters - three of them where born in London and all of them grew up near the Whitechapel area. They settled down in a small village, named Osby in south Sweden (where I was born). Sven died in 1932. The longest living of his daughters died in 1966. Non of them were ever married and had no children.
Elizabeths´sister married a Swedish worker in 1864 and died in 1916.
She gave birth to several children. Her brother Carl Bernhard married 1874 and died in 1908. He had no children. The youngest brother Svante went to sea as a sailor and went ashore in New York 1873. No one has since heard anything from him.
During the year of 2007 I managed to find several of Elizabeth Gutsafsdotter / Strides' relatives in Sweden and some of them became so inspired by my research that they decided to visit her grave - 120 years later - in April 2008.