|A Ripper Notes Article|
|This article originally appeared in Ripper Notes. Ripper Notes is the only American Ripper periodical available on the market, and has quickly grown into one of the more substantial offerings in the genre. For more information, view our Ripper Notes page. Our thanks to the editor of Ripper Notes for permission to reprint this article.|
By Derek Osborne
THERE WAS SOMETHING special about Catherine Eddowes and Mary Kelly, at least in the eyes of a killer. For they alone - apart from the horrendous injuries they shared in common with the Ripper's previous victims - were also facially mutilated. Mary Kelly especially so; in fact, she was unrecogniseable. But then, her murderer had time to spare. Out of sight in the confines of Kelly's abode, a ground-floor hovel that passed for a home, he had turned the twenty-five year old woman into something resembling a carcass in a slaughterhouse. And by the measure of a killer's previous work, it was a tour de force. Then, at some chosen time between midnight and dawn's early light, a man stepped out of Number 13 Miller's Court and walked away unnoticed down a Spitalfields street.
But was this murder of a prostitute on the 9-10th November 1888 Jack the Ripper's swansong - the final ringing down of the curtain, if you will - to an act of terror that began in the late summer of that year? Or did he then go on to also murder Alice McKenzie in 1889 and Frances Coles in 1891? Opinion still appears divided as to the actual hand that slaughtered these unfortunate women. Their bodies, however, lay sprawled in `Ripper style' on the streets where they had taken their last steps. And it was this public spectacle that reignited the fear that the killer had returned to his old ways and his old hunting grounds. But the faces of McKenzie and Coles had not been touched by a killer's knife.
Somehow the murder of forty-six year old Catherine Eddowes, which took place in Mitre Square between 1.35 and 1.45am on the 30th of September, was a curious affair. The previous day Eddowes and her paramour John Kelly had pawned a pair of his boots for the price of a meal; yet for a woman who walked arm-in-arm with poverty she soon became remarkable drunk. For by 8 o'clock that evening she was found to be in a disorderly state by two police constables in Aldgate High Street. As a consequence, she was duly escorted to Bishopsgate Police Station. Evidently the drunken Catherine was a deft hand at begging or scrounging, or perhaps she had hired out her body for the pennies she needed for drink. Two things, however, were very certain: the streets were already dark when she was released from custody, and she had but forty minutes left to live.
Catherine was ushered down a walkway known as Church Passage by an unidentified man to her place of execution, a dismal square which housed a number of warehouses and empty cottages. And it was an area which, for some curious reason, was patrolled every fifteen minutes by a beat constable. But what was so special about Mitre Square? What did it hold that it required so much police attention? One might think that the Crown Jewels had been deposited there! Unless it was ...the tea. Was this the precious item that warranted such attention? Perhaps so. And maybe the tea-traders of Mitre Square were paying the City Police for extra protection for the safe-keeping of their valuable commodity.
Author Stephen Knight attached great significance to Mitre Square in his book on the Ripper, claiming the word `mitre' bespoke Masonic connections. Knight advocated a groups of highly placed Freemasons as being responsible for the notorious Jack the Ripper murders. However, a far simpler case can be made for the name. A `mitre' is, of course, the headwear of a bishop and this, along with the named `Church' Passage leads us to reasonably favour a religious connection rather than a Masonic one. In any event, the square could not have been deliberately chosen in advance as a venue for murder, as Knight argued, or even as a meeting place for Eddowes and her killer, a s some contemporary police argued. For when Eddowes was released from her cell, neither she nor her killer could possibly have known they would meet. By chance they encountered one another and by chance they ended up in Mitre Square. For any dark corner would serve just as well for a man intent on murder.
Although they may have both been aware of the locality of Mitre Square or even familiar with it, they were evidently not that well acquainted with it - certainly not in terms of the police and their patrols. For had either of them been aware of the high police presence regarding Mitre Square they would surely have sought some other quiet corner to conduct their business in. But then the killer - even with the police buzzing around Mitre Square like bees drawn to nectar - was lucky. He had always been so. When PC Watkins arrived in the darkness of the square, his searching lantern picked out no couple locked in carnal combat, but only the form of a woman lying on her back in the south-west corner.
As to the injuries suffered by Catherine Eddowes, it is sufficient to accept that her throat had been cut and that she had been disemboweled. However, she differed, as mentioned, in one particular aspect from the Ripper's previous victims by reason of her mutilated face. Curiously, in addition it was found that both eyelids had been cut through or nicked. There was also `an incision on each side of the cheek which peeled up the skin and created a triangular flap ' Kneeling in the dark the killer had opened up the dead woman's abdomen, cutting, probing and searching. After he had finished his work he paused, even with time running out, to pay particular attention to her face. But why? It matters not whether the Ripper was aware or no of the tightly timed police patrols that swept the area. But he was certainly aware of the risks he undertook by the self-appointed nature of his terrible public post-mortem. Discovery hovered constantly at his shoulder. Yet even in the shadow of the noose he still would not abandon Catherine's body until he had marked her face.
A psychologist has stated that those with guilty secrets locked deep within their breast suffer from a compulsion to drop clues. What then of the Ripper? Was he such a person? Somehow it is hard to imagine. Nevertheless, the marking of Catherine Eddowes reveals that some other curious or morbid reasoning had also demanded its own particular outlet, even while time was running out.
Clearly, then, those two triangular-shaped cuts which had been deliberately etched into Eddowes' face held some important meaning. Something important enough, it seems, to delay escape and risk discovery. Those who subscribe to the notion that a Masonic aspect is to be found in the Ripper crimes might well interpret these marks as pyramid-shaped; a symbol of the secret brotherhood whose roots run back in time to the sands of ancient Egypt. A more reasoned approach, however, would be to view the triangular cuts more as arrow-shaped. Markers, if you will, that focused attention towards Eddowes' eyes. And the addition of those nicked eyelids reinforces that suspicion.
When a killer looked down into eyes that stared sightlessly up at the night sky above him, did he find the colour of his own eyes mirrored there? Does this explain the macabre hieroglyph he left behind, carved not in stone but in flesh? Was he saying, `the one you seek is hazel-eyed'? Was this the clue he left behind? Or did those hazel eyes remind him of the woman he had always hated - his mother, perhaps?