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November 9, 2021 29 mins

Elizabeth Stride was supposedly seen by several eyewitnesses in her final hours. They also saw a man with her. At last, Jack the Ripper had a face. These descriptions are the bedrock of many well known theories about the killer’s true identity. But can they be believed? And was the Ripper even responsible for Elizabeth’s murder?

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Episode Transcript

Available transcripts are automatically generated. Complete accuracy is not guaranteed.
Speaker 1 (00:15):
Pushkin. It's one am and Louis deem Shuts, a jewelry seller,
is on his way home in his horse and cart.
He can barely see his way through the dark. As
he turns off the street, his pony shied at something

which was lying in a heap in a corner of
the yard. Newspaper reports say that deem Shuts assumed that
a passed out, drunk or homeless person was blocking the
way and scaring his horse. He looked more closely into
the matter and then found a woman lying on the ground, dead,
with her throat cut clean to the vertebrae. The body

was quite warm and blood was still flowing freely from
the throat. Elizabeth's Stride has died recently. It seems curiously,
her injuries differ from those of the rippers previous victims.
While Polly Nichols and Annie Chapman suffered abdominal mutilation as
well as slash wounds to their throats, Elizabeth was killed

by a single cut. Few expressed doubt, however, that Jack
the Ripper is to blame. Elizabeth's death prompts myriad eyewitness accounts.
Whitechapel locals report where Elizabeth went before she died, and
with whom they described the men she had met, and
a picture of a suspect emerges. Jack the Ripper now

has a face. These descriptions will shape the case for
decades to come. But did any of these eyewitnesses actually
see Elizabeth's stride that night, let alone her murderer. I'm
Hallie Rubinholt, you're listening to bad women. The Ripper retold

a series about the real lives of the been killed
by Jack the Ripper and how we got their stories
so wrong. One side, money plenty and friends too by
the sky. Then fortune smild upon me. I now one

pass my dome. Aloney, I'm not with her, seems to
larn me. I'm come for me for rockcount Elizabeth strides

early life took her from Brual Sweden, were prisoned like
syphilis hospital. She came to London, married a carpenter and
ran two coffee houses, both of which failed and closed.
Then she became a fraudster, hoodwinking Londoners with tales of
family tragedy. We left her in September eighteen eighty eight.

Elizabeth's final day began like any other. She cleaned rooms
at a Whitechapel lodging house, earning a meager sixpence wage
about ten dollars today, and then she went to the
pub for a drink. The lodging house manager noted that
Elizabeth wore neither a coat nor a bonnet, a detail

that some have pounced upon as proof that she'd returned
to selling sex, as she had done briefly in her
native Sweden. Women out soliciting which surely tried to show
off their faces and bodies as much as possible. Of course,
wearing a hat was equally argued to be the sign
of a prostitute. Remember the conclusions drawn about Polly Nichols
in her jolly bonnet. If Elizabeth Stride was still selling sex,

she didn't have much lucks listing clients. She walked back
to her lodging house alone at around six thirty pm.
Only a handful of facts are known about what she
did in the hours before her death. She ate some potatoes,
bread and cheese. She likely had a few drinks as well.
At some stage in the evening she acquired a corsage,

a single red rose tied together with some maidenhair fern,
which she attached to the bodice of her dress. Elizabeth
asked a friend to mind a length of green velvet
she had in her possession. She was about to go
out for several hours, and perhaps she wanted to make
sure that no one stole and pond it before she
stepped out the door again. She sought to smarten herself up,

borrowing a brush to clean the muck from her only
set of clothes. Just as the newspaper reports and Polly
Nichols and Annie Chapman's last movements are riddled with contradictions
and inconsistencies, the same is true for Elizabeth. Some say
she had paid for her bed at the lodging house
that night in advance with that sixpence she'd earned. Others

state the opposite. If she had indeed already paid, it
would suggest that her intention was to return to the
lodging house later that evening, but where she planned to
go when she stepped out that night is unknown. Elizabeth
avoided telling her neighbors about her current or past life.
No one knew her typical habits, regular companions, or usual haunts.

Perhaps she went out to socialize or to meet someone.
She may have left her lodging house with the intention
of soliciting, or of finding a long term partner, or both.
Whatever Elizabeth's planned that night, she never returned. According to
the coverage of the autopsy, there was a clear cut

incision on the neck. It was six inches in length
and commenced two and a half inches in a straight
line below the angle of the jaw. The obvious inference,
said one newspaper, was that this was the work of
Jack the Ripper. The thing is, the darts just don't
join up that easily. Elizabeth was killed with a single cut,

and her body wasn't otherwise mutilated. Her injuries were therefore
quite unlike those of Polly Nichols and Annie Chapman. She
was also killed near a busy men's club, whereas Polly
and Annie were murdered in quiet places with fewer passers by.
I have strong doubts about whether Elizabeth Stride was a

victim of the Ripper at all. The traditional narrative claims
that the killer was disturbed before he could carry out
his trademark butchery. It further maintains that, with his blood
lust unsated, he dashed across Whitechapel in search of another
woman to murder. That very same night, but that's a
story for another episode. This all strikes me as a

bit far fetched. Elizabeth could have fallen prey to some
other unknown attacker, a victim of one of her fraudulent tricks.
Perhaps it's even possible that she was killed by her partner,
Michael Kidney, who was known to be physically abusive. Nevertheless,
Elizabeth Stride is still counted among the five victims, perhaps

because her death adds so much color to the Ripper myth.
It was only with Elizabeth Stride's death that I witnesses
began to come forward to report actual sightings of a suspect.
For example, a laborer saw a man and a woman
in close conference just before midnight on the street where

Elizabeth was killed. He believed that woman was Elizabeth's Stride.
I was standing at my door, and what attracted my
attention first was standing there sometime and he was kissing her.
I heard the man say to the deceased, you would
say anything but your prayers. He was mild speaking and
appeared to be an educated man. Not long after that,

Israel Schwartz, who gave a statement through an interpreter, noticed
a man and a woman having a disagreement on the
same street. Their argument became increasingly heated. The woman was
thrown to the ground, letting out a scream. Schwartz was

then startled by a second man who had been standing
in the shadows. Feeling menaced by this figure and unwilling
to intervene in some kind of domestic dispute, he took
to his heels and fled. Other neighbors chimed in two.
One woman saw a young man with a black, shiny
bag who walked very fast, but had it noticed anything

else unusual. That night, and in the daily news, a
man named Albert asked recalled a conversation with a suspicious stranger.
He asked me questions which now appeared to me to
have some bearing upon the recent murders. He wanted to
know whether I knew what sort of loose women use
the public bar at their house, when they usually left

the street outside, and where they were in the abbit
of going. He asked further questions, and from his manner,
seemed up to no good purpose. He appeared to be
a shabby, genteel sort of man, and was dressed in
black clothes. He wore a black felt hat and carried
a black bag. Such descriptions are the bedrock of most
Ripper theories. The trouble is none of these eyewitness statements

have ever been submitted to real scrutiny. Under close examination,
they don't hold up well at all. The Ripper he
told will be back In a moment, from the cacophony
of witnesses, a portrait of Elizabeth Stride's killer began to

take shape. The following description has been circulated of a
man said to have been seen in the company of
the deceased during Saturday, age twenty eight slight height, five
feet nine inches, complexion dark, no whiskers, black diagonal coat,
hard felt hat collar. It's not much to go on
an average size Victorian man who was neither very old

nor very young in average Victorian dress. Still, over the years,
these statements, no matter how vague, have crystallized into the
supposed facts of the case. Every Ripper book or documentary
you've seen will build on these shaky foundations. There was
at least one, maybe two copycats involved in these five murders.

Take Jeff Mudget, a descendant of Herman Mudget, who was
also known as H. H. Holmes. That's pretty much where
my theory has gone okay, and I know a lot
of people disagree with that. A notorious American swindler and
serial killer Holmes trapped his victims and what became known
as his murder Castle, a Chicago house he built to

include soundproof chambers and shoots to move body parts for disposal.
I put some research into this evil man and became
somewhat obsessed with knowing the true story about him. Holmes
lived and killed in Chicago, but Jeff is convinced that

he also crossed the Atlantic to satisfy his murderous impulses,
that he was also shack the Ripper. The more I
dug in, the more the angle started lessoning, and the
chances became greater and greater. Jeff has gathered evidence about
handwriting and passenger lists. We've done quite a bit of

research into passenger lists on liners from New York to
London Southampton, and we found some of the aliases that
Holmes used. He also thinks physical descriptions link Holmes and
the man scene with Elizabeth Stride. Both were of average
height and mustachioed, as was the fashion of the day.

Jeff actually thinks that Holmes didn't kill all the women.
His theory is elaborate and seems to suggest that H. H.
Holmes was a copycat killer drawn to London after the
earlier murders. He gave a ted X talk where he
presented his evidence, making much of a computer image, a
facial composite based on the statements of eye witnesses that

was produced by Scotland yard analysts for yet another TV show.
Noticed the bridge of the nose, Notice the shape of
the eyes, Notice the years, Notice the cheek bons. He
compares it to a photo of HH Holmes. Just take
a second to look once again the nose Holmes had
a broken nose, the eyes, the years, and again the

cheek bons. Jeff, who incidentally is a lawyer by trade,
show both of these images to two seasoned investigators, one
from the FBI. Both said the comparison was the closest
they'd ever seen in their entire careers. Jeff calls all
this a remarkable piece of evidence, although many of the

people that criticized me for using that thought it looked
more like Freddie Mercury than it did H. Holmes. Jeff's
theory is frankly baffling, and I had a bit of
trouble following the logic. During our conversation, it seemed to
contain gaping holes and great leaps of imagination. I was
surprised that someone with legal training would entertain this story

for a second. Would I be confident proving that Holmes
was Jack the Ripper and a court of log beyond
a reasonable doubt. Now now, off the back of his
ted X talk, Jeff made a TV show, American Ripper,
where he teamed up with former CIA agent Amaryllis Fox
in an effort to prove once and for all that

his great great grandfather was Jack the Ripper. I've talked
to experts and historians and combed through libraries and archives
searching for the truth, and I believe that by assuming
the identity of Jack the Ripper, HH Holmes pulled off
one of the greatest cons of all time. That show
has been seen all over the world. In fact, it

was on British TV again the very day I interviewed him.
The Ripper's final victim is played like a piece of meat.
It makes me wonder how Holmes was conducting dissections and
the basement of the Murder Castle in the years following
The Ripper killings are you aware of any? Viewers are
served up theories like this all the time. The same

cast of former detectives, handwritting experts and police artists are
wheeled out to explain the evidence and solve the crime.
The issue here is that not all evidence is equal.
It has to be scrutinized and weighed up. I'd argue
that little cited as evidence in the Ripper case would
actually stand up in court. The idea behind the due

process is that obviously we have these safeguards in place
that ultimately those who should be convicted or convicted and
where there's doubt they're acquitted. Ed Connell knows all about
the problems that evidence can pose. He's a judge in
the UK, presiding over criminal cases, and he previously spent
twenty three years as a trial lawyer. Eyewitness statements, he says,
are notoriously thorny. Visual identification has been one of the

real problems that the criminal justice system has faced. It's
one of the main causes of injustice. In eighteen ninety five,
a man named Adolf Beck was accused of swindling women
in London. He'd approached them on the street, claiming to
be an aristocrat and promising to whisk them away to
his luxury yacht and lavish them with jewelry. In fact,

why not give me that old ring so I can
have a new one made in exactly the right size
for you. Beck was spotted leaving home by one of
the women. That's him a rest back man. Several victims
and other eyewitnesses also identified him as the con man,
and he was sent to prison. The problem was Beck

was living in South America when these crimes took place.
It was only years later that the real culprit was
caught and Beck was freed. The case prompted the creation
of the UK's Court of Appeal. Today, we issue guidelines
about witness testimony precisely to avoid the kind of issues
that consigned ad Off Beck to years in prison for

someone else's crimes. A judge will say to the jury
members of jury, they have in the past being miscarriager's justice.
We have to be very careful. People who appeared to
be compelling can be wrong. Honest people can be wrong.
Lots of honest people can be wrong. Mistakes are made,
juries are often worn. To accept eyewitness statements with caution.

What distance were they viewing the person from, was there
anything in their way? What was the weather like, what
was the lighting like? How long has there been from
when they saw the persons or when they perhaps subsequently
identified them. Ed's examined some of the witness statements in
elizabeth Strides case, and he says they contain inherent weaknesses,
so it's difficult to really draw any conclusions from what

these people are said. It's difficult to see how anybody
could go away having read these statements and be sure
of what's contained within them. One should take great care
and caution before being able to say, yes, actually, any
of this stuff is fact. We can rely upon the
ripper were told we'll be back in just a moment.

Looking at, for example, the statement of William Marshall, it's
a very limited use to you at all. William Marshall
was a laborer. He believed he saw Elizabeth's stride the
night she died, in quiet discussion with a man. Marshall
thought he heard the man with Elizabeth tell her you
would say anything but your prayers. Marshall later went to

identify Elizabeth's body and confirmed that this was indeed the
same woman he had seen on the Street, he gave
evidence at the coroner's inquest. I recognize it as that
of a woman I saw on Saturday evening, about three
doors off from where I'm living in Berni Street. I
recognize her both by her face and dress, while she
wearing a flower when you saw her. No, it is

wary of Marshall's testimony. Marshall didn't actually know Elizabeth, and
how much real attention would he have paid to a
couple he just saw on the street, Probably not enough
for a detailed picture of them to lodge in his memory.
He gives a very limited description as to what she
was wearing. He says black jacket and black skirt, which

I imagine was not particularly unique. And the other piece
of him for mation is that he says that she
was wearing a small black crape bonnet, which again I
suspect is probably not a particularly distinguishing feature. Curiously, Marshall
didn't see the corsage that Elizabeth had attached to her dress.
He told the coroner that the woman he saw wasn't
wearing a flower. On the other hand, a police inspector

who took a description of Elizabeth at the Moutree noted
that She had a red rose tied with maidenhair fern
fastened to her clothing. Again a sort of feature that
an observant witness who could be deemed reliable would have spotted.
Even if this woman was Elizabeth's stride, Marshall couldn't have
had a great view of the pair. For one thing,

he was watching them from a distance. Can you describe
the man? There was no lamp near, and I did
not see the face of the man she was talking to.
He had on a small black coat and dark trousers.
Seemed to be a middle aged man. What sort of
cap was he wearing? A round cap with a sort
of peak to it, something like what a sailor would wear.

It's happening late at night, so it's dark. He makes
reference to there being a light, but of course they
would have been passing under the light. He describes that
the male person had a brimmed cap on, so that
would have cast the face into darkness. What height was he?
About five ft six inches and he was rather stout.
He was decently dressed, and I should say he worked

at some light business and had more the appearance of
a clerk than anything else. He gives a description of
a man wearing a small black coat, dark trousers. Again
not unique. I wouldn't have thought for the time, middle
aged and about five foot six and rather stout. It's
not particularly sort of distinctive description that would only match

maybe two or three people. It mats hundreds of thousands
of people at that time. So again that sort of
cast some doubt over whether or not he could be
relied upon his identification witness. But more important than that,
there is actually no visual identification of the person because
he doesn't see the face. And then the coroner asked
a question latron or did he have any whiskers? And

his response was born from what I saw of his face.
I don't think he did. But he's already told them
that he hadn't seen the face. So his identification evidence
is just really, it seemed to me inherently weak. Here
Edie is convinced that William Marshall wouldn't be able to
pick this suspect out of a lineup. A modern standard
for reliable identification by witnesses. The whole idea of identification procedures.

You arrange eleven stooges that look very similar facially to
the individual and then you hope that the witness then
picks the person out. But this witness, mister Marshall, seems
wouldn't have even been able to do that at all.
So you're really left with a broad description of types
of clothing of very limited value. Should we also ask
questions of this witness such as why was he awake

at that time of night? What was he doing? Was
he drinking? Perhaps? Absolutely? I mean that's one of the
things you often would ask a witness when they're identified
someone involved perhaps in a pub fight, for example, at
eleven o'clock at night, because it's a very good chance
that they will have been drinking. It's also worth remembering
where the abundance of eyewitness accounts on Elizabeth Strides case
came from. In the first place. Panic was gripping Whitechapel.

These murders were all over the newspapers. It's unsurprising that
people would then come for and say, oh, yeah, no,
I think you know, I might have seen that night
as well. And of course they then want to believe
that they're right about it, and no one's going to
then go and look at the body and say, oh no,
I'm sorry, I'm wrong. I've made a terrible mistake. They're
going to want to insist that they've got it all right.
Marshall's evidence wouldn't clear the bar for reliability that we

said today. His is just one example of witness testimony
from Elizabeth Stride's murder, but it shows us that there
are pitfalls when we take what people thought they saw
in Whitechapel that night and on the nights of the
other murders and portray them as facts. Because there was
never a trial, accounts like Marshall's were never discredited. Instead,

they're out there in the ether ripe to form the
foundations for House of Card theories, like Jeff Mudget's thesis
that is great great Groundfather sailed across the Atlantic to
join the Jack the Ripper killing spree. The advantage of
people have now looking back with the passage of time
is that you can pretty much put a spin on
anything you want to your advantage, because there's such limited
information for you to tear and say, well, no, you've

got that completely wrong. We're all just stuck with the
minimum information we've really got from the coroner reports and
what was reported at the time. Perhaps this is why
I'm viewed with such animosity by ripparologists. As a professional historian,
I hunt for evidence, stress test the facts that I find,
and cross reference them with other available sources. Ripparologists cherry pick,

attaching huge importance to whatever supports their theories and ignoring
what's inconvenient. All this reminds me of how conspiracy theories work.
They too, are detailed narratives built around scant and disputed facts.
It's no coincident, but the Whitechapel murders spawned many crackpot
conspiracy theories, with Freemasons, Jews, and Royalty all being implicated

in plots to cover up the murderer's true identity. I
find this aspect of the Ripper case especially maddening. It's
bad enough that some people ignore the victims and spend
an inordinate amount of time almost glorifying the killer's deeds,
but to abuse the historical records so casually in the
process infuriates me. Further Still, it turns the grisly murders

of real women into a silly who done it? Game.
The megastar crime writer Patricia Cornwell, creator of the famous
Scott Heatter novels, also has a very detailed theory Patricia
links Victorian artist Walter Sickett to the Whitechapel murders. I've
been reading up on her work and I feel it's

no more plausible than chefs. There's no statute of limitation
on harmicide, and just because these cases have had her
in fourteen years ago, the victims have a right to justice.
My mind went back to her documentary, Patricia Cornwell's Stalking
the Ripper. Patricia is clearly a thoughtful and talented person
who speaks passionately about wanting to bring justice to the

murdered women. But I cannot understand the path she has followed,
and I fear she's falling into the same trap as
the most zealous ripparologists. I genuinely want to understand what's
driving her, but getting in touch with Patricia was proving
more difficult than I had anticipated. I write my agent, Sarah,
hoping she might have some ideas. I mean, this is

like contacting a superstar. Really, I'm not quite sure how
I'm going to manage to help you with this. What
are we dealing with it? I mean, Patricia Cornwell is
like a kind of force of nature. How big is she?
I've never met her, myself, but she does. Her reputation
really precedes her. She is a sort of action woman
of the literally world. And that first case Scarpettiitt was

the first bonfidi forensics thriller, which is extraordinary when you
think about it. I mean the CSI Dexter. You can't
turn on the telly without tripping over something, which is
all about forensic detail, and she predated all of that.
She started writing those books at a time where there
wasn't really any interest in that. Sarah said that she
would reach out to Patricia's US agent for me. I

was keeping everything crossed. Interestingly, she also thought that Patricia
and I might have more in common than I'd imagined.
She's very interested in victimhood. Her books are all about
finding justice for people who've had terrible things done to them.
Patricia's Walter Sickett theory, like the prostitute killer theory, wrests

on simplistic ideas of misogyny and sexual deviance. Patricia contends
that as a child, Sickert underwent surgery to correct a
fisture on his penis. The operation was botched, leaving him
disfigured and impotent. As a result, says Patricia, he raged
against women. None of this theory ry screams interest in

the victims to me, certainly, not in who they were
before their murders, or in the lives that they led,
or the forces that put them into the killer's path.
I genuinely want to understand why people invest so much time, money,
and emotional energy into thinking about Jack the Ripper. Maybe
Patricia can articulate that for me, and maybe I can

convince her to focus less on the psychology of a
killer will never catch and more on the women that
he murdered. Maybe I can convince her to finally call
off the hunt. Bad Women the Ripper Were Told is

brought to you by Pushkin Industries and Me Hallie Ribbinhold,
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 Soul Boyer, Melanie Gutridge,

Gemma Saunders, and rufus Wright. The show also wouldn't have
been possible without the work of mil LaBelle, Jacob Weisberg,
Jen Guerra, Heather Fane, Carlie Migliori, Maggie Taylor, Nicole Morano
and Daniella Lacan were special thanks to my agents Sarah
Ballard and Ellie Karen
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