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November 23, 2021 32 mins

Kate Eddowes was murdered in a dark London square in the dead of the night. What had she been doing there? It seems improbable that she was selling sex... and the more likely explanation totally upends the idea that Jack the Ripper posed as a "John" to launch his brutal attacks.

 

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Available transcripts are automatically generated. Complete accuracy is not guaranteed.
Speaker 1 (00:15):
Pushkin. A little girl races up the steps to number
seventh Rall Street. She bangs on the front door and
calls out to her neighbor. A policeman has sent her.
He wants to see Eliza Edos down in the street,

(00:38):
but Eliza is too ill to get up. She moans,
rolls over in her bed, and sends the child away
leave me alone. Moments later, the girl returns. This time
the police officer has given her a grimmer message to convey.
Eliza's sister, Kate, has been found dead, and she must

(00:59):
identify the body or what remains of it. Kate Edo's
killing is perhaps the most gruesome of the Whitechapel murders,
yet it's also helped me to form a new theory
about what really connects the Ripper victims, a theory that
demolishes the myth that he was some kind of superhuman

(01:20):
master criminal. I'm Halle ribbin Holt. You're listening to Bad
Women The Ripper retold, a series about the real lives
of the women killed by Jack the Ripper and how
we got their stories so wrong. One side, money plenty

(01:47):
and friends too by the sky. Then fortune smild upon me.
Now one past my Domey and Notworth. We've traced Kate

(02:30):
Edo's life from growing up as the child of a
Union agitator to tramping around England with her Balladia partner
Thomas Conway, selling songs and performing on street corners. When
Conway became violent and the relationship ended, Kate came to Whitechapel,
where she took up with John Kelly. Kate and Kelly
were both drinkers. They lived a hand to mouth existence,

(02:54):
wandering between different lodging houses and selling goods along the
road between London and the surrounding countryside. We left Kate
on the eve of her murder September twenty ninth, eighteen
eighty eight. She and Kelly had just part ways, each
on a mission to raise the fourpence to buy a
bed for the night. In all likelihood, Kate didn't get

(03:16):
very far before she encountered someone who owed her a
drink or two, and she was not the sort of
woman to refuse such a kind offer. By eight thirty
that evening, Kate was sitting in a heap against a wall,
paralytically drunk. She babbled and sang and cursed, which inevitably

(03:38):
drew a small crowd of people the same gentleman. Some
would have stared in amusement, others with genuine concern for
this unfortunate soul. I reckon, that's John Kelly's missus. She's
in a right staple creature. A passing police constable pushed

(04:03):
his way through the gaggle of onlookers. This woman or
where she lives? No one answered. The constable tried to
lift Kate off the street, but her legs were as
shambling as those of a foal ah, and she soon
slipped sideways out of his hold. Finally, with the assistance

(04:25):
of a colleague, he was able to lead the inebriated
woman to the police station. As was routine, they recorded
her details in their ledger. What is your name, the
constable demanded, nothing, Kate slurred. They placed nothing in a

(04:45):
cell while she slid into a drunken slumber, Yes the soul.
After a couple of hours, Kate woke again, and she
began to sing to herself. Eventually, the jailer came to
see her in the cell. Where are you going to
let me out? She asked, her voice tired and dry.

(05:07):
When you're capable of taking care of yourself, I'm capable
of taking care of myself. Now, this could not have
been the case. Well, Kate may have seemed steadier on
her feet, she would not have fully sobered up after
just a few hours of sleep. Still, she was led
from her cell to the police station office. What time

(05:30):
is it too late for you to get a drink? Well?
What time is it? Just on one? I shall get
a damned fine hiding when I get home, she muttered,
knowing this was all for show. Though when she lived
with Thomas Conway, that would have been the truth. And
serve you right, You have no right to get drunk,
taunted the jailer, who, like Kate's family, would have held

(05:53):
with the era's thoughts on such a matter. An errant
wife deserved a beating. The police officers then handed back
to Kate items that had been in her pockets when
she arrived, an assortment of necessities that she would have
always kept on her person, plus a teaspoon, a single
red mitten, and parts of a broken pair of spectacles,

(06:18):
said the jailer, pushing open the door. Right good night.
Kate turned left out of the police station and disappeared
into the night. At that same moment, a mile away,

(06:41):
Louis Deemshutz had just discovered something blocking the path of
his horse and cart. He poked the object with his
whip and then moved closer. He struck a match, illuminating
the corpse of Elizabeth Stride. Then the wind blew out

(07:02):
the flame with just a handful of hissing gas lights.
Most streets in the area would have been pitched black
at one am, but Kate was accustomed to the dark,
and she knew the byways and passages of Whitechapel as
well as she did the bottom of a bottle. After

(07:26):
about twenty minutes of searching for John Kelly, she must
have concluded that she would not chance upon his familiar face.
Likely exhausted by this point, she would have reconciled herself
to sleeping roff. By now forty six year old Kate
was familiar with this routine. She knew how to sleep

(07:46):
in the open, how to find a less painful way
of laying her head against a hard wall, how to
ignore the muck that gathered in her skirts, or the
trickle of wastewater that might roll over her feet. She
found a spot in the dark far corner of Mita Square.
Here she lowered herself down, her back against the wall

(08:09):
as if it were a chair, supporting her. As she
did so, the assorted objects in her peddler's pockets must
have moved against one another. Tin boxes filled with sugar
and tea, an empty cigarette case, and an old table knife.
Figure for all of her good humor, her singing and jolliness,

(08:30):
Kate's heart must have been heavy as she closed her
eyes against the night, said the day a long still
to us set. White light comes love, old song comes love,

(08:51):
so sweet so Kate's sister, Eliza, arrived at the mortuary
with a police inspector. When the cough and lid was
drawn back, she let forth a stream of anguished whales.

(09:15):
She was so distressed that she had to be led
from the room. Kate's throat had been cut, but she'd
also suffered horrific, almost ritualistic abdominal wounds. Kate's face had
been disfigured, too, But when Eliza was steady enough to speak,
she said that she could still recognize the lacerated corpse

(09:38):
before her as her sister. In spite of their financial circumstances,
the Eddo's family would not have their sister dropped into
a pauper's grave, and neither would the residence of Whitechapel
permit Kate to be laid to rest without a resounding
send off. On the day of her funeral, the streets

(10:01):
thronged with hundreds of friends and neighbors, who all gathered
to pay their last respects as Kate processed towards the cemetery.
At the inquest, John Kelly was pressed on how Kate
had made her living. The coroner and jury were skeptical

(10:23):
of his account, not just because Kelly provided a muddled
version of events, but because they, like the police and
the press, were convinced that the killer was targeting prostitutes.
The manager of the Whitechapel lodging house, where Kate and
Kelly were regulars, who claimed to have been acquainted with
the couple for seven years, cited with certainty that he

(10:46):
never knew or heard of Kate being intimate with anyone
but Kelly. Kate's sister, Eliza, corroborated this testimony, and for
his part, Kelly stated that he never knew of her
going out for immoral purposes at night, nor had she
ever brought me money in the morning after being out.
In fact, he stated categorically that he would never have

(11:07):
suffered such a situation. Nevertheless, journalists persisted in identifying Kate
as a prostitute. After all, according to Victorian society, homeless
women and women who sold sex were generally one and
the same. The Daily Telegraph, for instance, noted that Kate
regularly bedded down in a shed alongside what they called

(11:30):
houseless waives penniless prostitutes like herself. Unfortunately, in the course
of defending Kate's honor to the coroner, Kelly made the
mistake of using a turn of phrase with a double
meaning when he stated his concern over their lack of
doss money. He claimed he didn't want to after see
her walk about the streets at nine. Walking the streets

(11:53):
was part of the experience of rough sleepers, a never
ending nocturnal quest for some were quiet to rest before
a patrolling constable moved them on. What do you mean
by walking the streets? Well, so many a time we've
not had the money to I for shower and evert
to tramp about. But Kelly's clarification of the term did

(12:14):
little to dissuade the papers from pursuing the salacious prostitution angle.
In fact, many of them cut out Kelly's explanation altogether.
The police and press were primed by the prejudice of
their era to conclude that Kate Edos sold sex and
that her status as a prostitute wrought her demise. It

(12:35):
was of little consequence that the people who actually knew
Kate said otherwise, respectable society knew better. But the thing
is working backward from the conclusion you believe to be correct,
and shoehorning the available evidence to fit your favorite narrative
makes a deeply flawed investigation. As historian Ginger frost Well knows,

(12:58):
that's not good historical inquiry. You let your sources tell
you where to go. What does your evidence tell you?
Look at the evidence first, and then you draw your conclusions.
It's the orion's version of the scientific method. As with
Polly Nichols and Annie Chapman, there is simply no reliable
evidence that Kate Edos ever sold sex, and if at

(13:19):
least three of Jack the Ripper's victims weren't involved in
the sex trade, Jack the Ripper can't be a killer
of prostitutes. So what is the evidence telling me? I
read the witness accounts of the murder scenes. There was
another common denominator, something else connected these victims, And when

(13:39):
I examined their stories and the circumstances of their deaths,
it hit me the ripper retold will be back in
a moment. Polly Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride and Kate

(14:00):
Edo's are not linked by the sex trade, but they
are all connected by their precarious living situations. Polly, Annie,
and Kate were all found in corners and crevices which
were relatively quiet. This fact has been used to bolster
the prostitution narrative, the assumption being that each of the
women purposefully took their clients to secluded locations to engage

(14:24):
and paid for sexual acts. Polly Nichols was discovered beside
a recessed gate, Annie Chapman in a yard off a
main street, and Kate Edos in a dark corner of
mita square, away from the glow of any street lamps.
But what if, in the absence of any other shelter,
these women were just looking for places to sleep. We

(14:46):
know that Polly, Annie, Elizabeth and Kate all drifted between
lodging houses, the workhouse, and occasionally the odd rented room.
Each woke daily without knowing where she would lay her
head that night. The fourpence required for a lodging house
bed was often unobtainable, and permanent shelter was a luxury
that was simply beyond reach. After Kate Edos died, other

(15:09):
women came forward and stated that she regularly bedded down
with them in a shed. In London, rough sleepers were ubiquitous.
There were an estimated seventy thousand homeless individuals in the
city in the Victorian era. As is true today, homelessness
went hand in hand with vulnerability to violence. Women who

(15:30):
lived without male protection and a roof over their heads
were outcasts, and outcasts were regarded as morally corrupt and
sexually impure. It was generally accepted that such women would
do anything for food and a bed, that they were
available to be used for sex. Women who refused a
man in these circumstances could expect to suffer assault. Victorian

(15:56):
researcher Ellen Stanley documented the lives of homeless women, including
the gray haired Cranky Sal, whose face had been disfigured
by a stroke. One day, Stanley noticed Sal had a
black eye. I would not let a man do as
he liked. With me, it seems a decently dressed gentleman

(16:17):
had offered to buy her a pennyworth of whelks and
a twopenny pie. Then we strolled along and stopping at
a doorway, he offered me a shillin. He said that
would get me a lodging for the night. And he
asked me if I was going to take his money,
and I said, oh no, I don't do business like that,
and he gave me a violent blow. When sal approached

(16:39):
a policeman for help, he just laughed. He said that
man must have a strong stomach to fancy such is me.
She met with a similar response from another officer. He
refused to listen and pushed me from the pavement enter
the middle of the street. We all know that homes

(17:01):
people get beating up, people piss on them, which I
think is absolutely vile. Grace knows firsthand that even to
this debt, homeless people are objects of scorn, disgust, and fear.
Would that be acceptable to Chet to anybody else, Absolutely not.
But people just see him as public property. We can
do what we want to them. They're there, there's no accountability,

(17:23):
They're not going to appall. Grace was previously homeless and
now works for a charity. She sees the obstacles that
homeless women face and the ways they are victimized. Just
as Polly, Annie and Kate had varied experiences of life
without permanent shelter in the Victorian era, homelessness today is
rarely uniform and constant. A person with no fixed address

(17:47):
might rotate between sleeping on the streets, lodging at a hostel,
and staying with a friend or acquaintance. Grace herself became
homeless after she left college. I tried to find a
temper accommodation and I got it at first, and then
it fell through, and then I started so for surfing.
I was being with people simply for somewhere to stay,
and then I ended up in our hostel, and then

(18:08):
I got moved into my own place. I'm quite lucky,
because you know, I still see these women that I
lived with, and they're still there. They just get lost
in the system. They're caught up in hotels, they're caught
up in short stay accommodations. They're never given anywhere permanent.
Kate Eddo's experience of violence at the hands of Thomas
Conway also reminds Grace of the stories of some of

(18:30):
the women she's encountered in her work. Unfortunately, a lot
of the women I met along the way weren't homeless
that they were fleeing domestic abuse. Their only option was
to declare themselves homeless and end up in a hostel,
which was really not the best environment for them. They
needed help with domestic violence, not homelessness. Just like the
women in Victorian Whitechapel, Today's homeless women sometimes except financial

(18:53):
support or offers of accommodation from men whose motives are
far from altruistic. He thinks she must do what I
say because I've given her money, even though that's never agreed.
People just assume consent and they end up rape naru
in our Often these crimes aren't reported to the police.
There is a huge trust issue of the police. Homeless

(19:16):
people can expect the police to show them contempt, says Grace,
not unlike the kind of scorn and disdain that Cranky
Sal suffered when she reported assault. And because of all
of this, they're more at risk of exploitation, They're more
at risk of people taking a vanagement. Just in general,
because they tend to be more despoted to just reach
their basic needs such as foods, such as shelter. Unfortunately,

(19:38):
if you're not going to ring the place, you're already
living a really chaotic lifestyle. The last thing you want
to do is slap on a police investigation. You don't
want to go for all that. People know this and
they just take advantage of it. Sadly matching what Grace
can tell me about the experiences of homelessness. With historical
accounts from the eighteen eighties and my own research, I'm

(20:00):
more convinced than ever that Jack the rippers modus operandi
was to kill not working prostitutes, but sleeping or unconscious
homeless people. This theory has of course drawn the ire
of ripparologists, including former police officer Trevor Marriott, whose own
pet ripper theory rests entirely on the discredited prostitution thesis.

(20:25):
I don't know why Halley has chosen to suggest that
these women were killed while they slept in the street.
It's absolute ridiculousness to try to accept that that could
have happened. Is it so ridiculous? Wouldn't it be riskier
for a murderer to meet a sex worker on a

(20:45):
busy street in front of witnesses, and walk with her
until he found a secluded outdoor space. What if she
were to scream or flee or fight back when he
revealed his knife. Wouldn't a slumbering victim already curled up
in a dark corner and away from prying eyes be
an altogether more tempting option. But that would make Jack

(21:10):
the River a very different kind of killer, wouldn't it.
He'd be a creeping, tiptoeing sneak. He'd be a coward,
and his victims wouldn't be brassy outcasts flying a dangerous
and immoral trade, but women merely seeking sleep. And that's

(21:31):
not a story. Some people will swallow more on that
after this short break. There really is no more marginalizing
science population than people who are sleeping rough people who
live on the streets. That's criminologist Paul Bleakly. He thinks

(21:54):
my theory holds water. These are people who don't have
any voice for a range of reasons. They are easy targets,
easy prey for people who are looking to do harm.
There are so many examples of this spanning the decades.
In twenty twenty, one in San Diego, John David Guero
received multiple life sentences for beating three homeless people to death,

(22:17):
dowsing others with gas and setting them on fire, and
viciously assaulting yet more victims with a spike, often as
they slept. One man who survived said that Guero had
stated he was attacking him because he was a bum.
According to Paul, this type of violence can be explained,
at least in part by what criminologists call routine activity theory,

(22:42):
which basically suggests that what we need for a crime
to happen is essentially a motivated offender, a lack of
a protector, and a vulnerable victim. For Paul, this offers
us an insight into the Whitechapel murders and represents an
important shift away from obsessing over the killer's motive and
onto the kinds of social conditions that paved the way

(23:04):
for people to become victims. Okay, yes, it doesn't tell
you why person who's being victimized. It might be because
someone's trying to rob them. It might be because someone's
out for a thrill. It could be because someone has
mental illness. It could be anything. But the fact is
that people who are rough sleeping are especially vulnerable to it.
My theory that the Ripper's victims are linked by homelessness

(23:27):
is but now, compared to some of the outrageous tales
that the Rippers inspired, it's hard to imagine that Jack
the Ripper, slayer of the homeless, would have garnered the
same degree of fame as Jack the Ripper, the killer
of whores would. A murderer of homeless people draw tourists
from all over the world, with the likes of Michael
Caine and Johnny Depp, have brought them to life through

(23:50):
TV and film. And yet the more I thought about it,
the more I realized that this feature of the Jack
the Ripper killings has been staring us in the face
all along. So why are we still resisting it? And
more than that, why does it make people so angry?
Why would Katherine Edo's go with someone into a dark,

(24:13):
secluded corner in Miter Square when she had lodgings to
go to. Why was she there? What was she doing
with a male person at that time in the morning.
She wasn't out for us early morning stroll, that's for sure, Trevor. Again,
my producer Alice spoke to him. I suppose the thing
about about homelessness is that people often do end up

(24:33):
sleeping in places that don't yep, I would totally agree.
But the crime scenes and the crime scene photos are
not conducive with anybody just suddenly saying, oh, I'm going
to lie down in the middle of the road and
have a sleep, and then suddenly a killer comes along
and murders them in their sleep. I began to wonder

(24:54):
if the refusal to acknowledge this obvious link might be telling,
if our preference through outlandish theories might reveal something about
our culture's appetite for murder stories, and in particular, about
how we like our serial killers. He's smarter than the police.
He manages to blend in like he's got an invisibility cloak.

(25:16):
Here's Rebecca Frost, an expert on literature about the Ripper.
He manages to convince these women to be alone with
him for long enough for him to kill them. He
can come across as normal and yet still be this
criminal masterminds. It's a really yeah, he's like a super villain.
I mean, he's like Lex Luthor or something. This serial
killer as super villain cliche is everywhere When a serial

(25:39):
killer remains at large in real life, it's often thanks
to chance or the indifference of the authorities. Remember Samuel Little.
He's believed to have murdered up to ninety victims from
the nineteen seventies onward, helped in no small part by
a criminal justice system that didn't value the women he murdered.
The world of fiction, on the other hand, is full

(26:00):
of serial killers who are charming, cultivated, and staggeringly intelligent,
from Hannibal Lecter to Dexter to the scheming John Doe.
In seven with Jack the Ripper, that fictional troope spills
over into real life crime. Novelist Patricia Cornwell definitely thinks
the killer was a superman. This was this blonde, gorgeous

(26:23):
guy who spoke seven or eight languages, genius IQ, extremely
talented artist. He was somebody who hobnob was some of
the highest levels of society. He was the apprentice to Whistler,
friends with people like Degas Oscar Wilde. He gave painting
lessons to Winston Churchill. Imagine that that Churchill was given

(26:44):
art lessons by Jack the Ripper. I'm watching a video
she made in twenty fifteen trying to fathom her complicated
theory that Jack was in fact the famed artist Walter Sickard.
In Patricia's theory, a celebrated painter swaps his brush for
a knife, and his crime has become the expression of

(27:06):
his intellect and brilliance. Jack the rip But is quite
literally an artist, brutal, bloody, uncompromising, enacting his vision then disappearing,
leaving the police and the public bewildered in his wake.
But lionizing killers comes at the expense of the victims,

(27:27):
says Rebecca. It's this fascination with him, why he did it,
what drove him to do this. We don't want to
feel empathy for the victims because then we can't feel
a fascination for the killer. And it's really just become
this over a century of who done it. We want
to identify the killer, we want the motive, we want
the reason, and we really have to push the victims away.

(27:48):
If we're going to look at it as that sort
of thought experiment, perhaps we prefer Jack the Ripper to
be an extraordinary superhuman monster because the alternative is more threatening.
Accepting that Jack the Ripper was an ordinary Joe, both
a member and a product of regular society would mean

(28:08):
it knowledging that we might have something in common with him,
that in some ways the monster lies far closer than
we would care to admit. Shortly after kate Edo's murder,
a local businessman called George Lusk received a box in

(28:29):
the post. Lusk had just helped to establish a vigilante
organization whose members patrolled the area to hunt down Jack.
Lusk opened the box and was baffled and then horrified
by its contents. Inside was half a human kidney preserved

(28:49):
an alcohol. It was accompanied by a letter addressed from Hell.
I may send you the bloody knife that took it
out if you only weigh a while longer, signed catch
me when you can, mister Lusk. The parcel turned out
to be another hoax. It was thought that the kidney

(29:10):
had been procured by some medical students as part of
a callous joke. Even so, it tends to be what
people remember about kate Edo's story. In fact, the from
Hell letter and its attendant organ have featured an elaborate
theories about the killer for decades. In the nineteen seventies,
they were part of a popular but convoluted story that

(29:33):
implicated the British royal family Masonic ritual, and once again
Walter Sicott published in a book rather tastelessly entitled Jack
the Ripper The Final Solution. It suggested that an heir
to the throne fell in love with and secretly wed
one of Sictt's working class models. To cover up the scandal,

(29:55):
Queen Victoria's own doctor was sent to Whitechapel to murder
any witnesses to the marriage in the most gruesome way possible.
A network of Freemasons then saw to it that the
evidence was suppressed and the killer's true identity was never revealed.
People seem to adore this kind of conspiratorial explanation of

(30:17):
the murders. There's no evidence to back up any of it,
but its adherents will tell you that's only because the
government cover up was so thorough. Kate Edo's place in
this farcical story is particularly wretched. Even the fantasist couldn't
connect her to the supposed royal scandal, so they claim
her murder was merely a horrific case of mistaken identity.

(30:42):
The Ripper case is full of such confections. We'd rather
believe the dramatic and fantastical over the mundane and obvious,
far from the powerful conspiring to kill the women. The evidence,
as I see it, points to society's utter indifference and
neglect towards them, and the depressing reality the poverty and

(31:05):
homelessness gave the ripper is terrible opportunity unity bad women.
The Rippery Told is brought to you by Pushkin Industries

(31:25):
and me Hallie ribbin Hold, and is based on my
book The Five. It was produced and co written by
Ryan Dilley and Alice Fines, with help from Pete Norton.
Pascal Wise Sound designed and mixed the show and composed
all the original music. You also heard the voice talents
of Bencrow, Melanie Gutridge, Gemma Saunders, and rufus Wright. The
show also wouldn't have been possible without the work of

(31:47):
mir La Belle, Jacob Weisberg, Jenguerra, Heather Fane, Carlie mcgliori,
Maggie Taylor, Nicole Maraino, The tal Mullad, Eric Sandler, and
Daniella Lakhan. With special thanks to my agents Sarah Ballard
and Ellie Karen Game.
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