Updated:
Original:
Year
1888
Month Day
August 31

Jack the Ripper’s first victim murdered

Prostitute Mary Ann Nichols, the first known victim of London serial killer “Jack the Ripper,” is found murdered and mutilated in the city’s Whitechapel district. London saw four more victims of the murderer during the next few months, but no suspect was ever found.

In Victorian England, London’s East End was a teeming slum occupied by nearly a million of the city’s poorest citizens. Many women were forced to resort to prostitution, and in 1888 there were estimated to be more than 1,000 prostitutes in Whitechapel.

That summer, a serial killer began targeting these downtrodden women. On September 8, the killer claimed his second victim, Annie Chapman, and on September 30 two more prostitutes–Liz Stride and Kate Eddowes–were murdered and carved up on the same night.

By then, London’s Scotland Yard police had determined the pattern of the killings. The murderer, offering to pay for sex, would lure his victims onto a secluded street or square and then slice their throats. As the women rapidly bled to death, he would then brutally disembowel them with the same six-inch knife.

The police, who lacked modern forensic techniques such as fingerprinting and blood typing, were at a complete loss for suspects. Dozens of letters allegedly written by the murderer were sent to the police, and the majority of these were immediately deemed fraudulent. However, two letters–written by the same individual–alluded to crime facts known only to the police and the killer. These letters, signed “Jack the Ripper,” gave rise to the serial killer’s popular nickname.

On November 7, after a month of silence, Jack took his fifth and last victim, Irish-born Mary Kelly, an occasional prostitute. Of all his victims’ corpses, Kelly’s was the most hideously mutilated. In 1892, with no leads found and no more murders recorded, the Jack the Ripper file was closed.

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us!

ALSO ON THIS DAY

This Day In History: Princess Diana dies in a car crash

Princess Diana dies in a car crash

Shortly after midnight on August 31, 1997, Diana, Princess of Wales—affectionately known as "the People’s Princess"—dies in a car crash in Paris. She was 36. Her boyfriend, the Egyptian-born socialite Dodi Fayed, and the driver of the car, Henri Paul, died as well.  Princess ...read more

FDR signs Neutrality Act

On August 31, 1935, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs the Neutrality Act, or Senate Joint Resolution No. 173, which he calls an “expression of the desire…to avoid any action which might involve [the U.S.] in war.” The signing came at a time when newly installed fascist ...read more