JACK THE RIPPER WALK
THE MURDER OF ANNIE CHAPMAN.
In the early hours of the morning on the 8th September 1888, Annie Chapman was turned out of a lodging house because, like Mary Nichols before her, she didn't have the four pence to pay for her bed.
There were unconfirmed reports that Annie was later drinking in the Ten Bells pub, at the junction of Commercial Street and Church Street (today’s Fournier Street) at around 5:AM.
According to an uncorroborated press report, shortly after 5:AM a man in a “little skull cap” popped his head round the door and called her out. The veracity of this sighting is difficult to ascertain.
What is certain is that by 5.30am Annie Chapman had made her way to Hanbury Street, just a short distance away from the Ten Bells Pub.
The site of number 29 Hanbury Street, along with the street's entire north side, was demolished in the late 1960's by the Truman Brewery and replaced with a rather unsightly light brown brick brewery building. The spot where Annie Chapman was murdered is now occupied by a car park inside the building.
However, the south side of the street has survived relatively unchanged since the 1880's.
In 1888 both sides of Hanbury Street were lined with four storey houses. They all had front doors that opened into narrow passageways which squeezed past the staircases and led directly to the backyards.
The rooms of the buildings were let out to individual tenants and their families. Most of these tenants worked all hours of the day and night and, as a result of their constant comings and goings, the front doors often remained open all night long.
This fact was well known to the prostitutes of the area and they often took their clients into the hallways and landings of the buildings or else led them in to the backyards for what the Coroner at the inquest into Annie Chapman’s death referred to as “immoral purposes.”
Number 29 was, like many of the other houses in the street somewhat overcrowded, and seventeen occupants were crammed into its eight rooms.
As the Truman Brewery Clock on Brick Lane struck 5.30am on 8th September 1888, Mrs Elizabeth Long turned out of Brick Lane and began walking along Hanbury Street.
As she passed the doorway of number 29 she noticed a man and a woman talking together on the pavement outside its front door. The woman was facing her and later, when taken to see Annie Chapman’s body at the mortuary, she was emphatic that the woman she had see was Annie Chapman.
The man had his back to her so she couldn’t see his face. But as she walked past them the man said to the woman “will you?” to which the woman replied “yes.” From that brief overheard snippet Mrs Long deduced that the man had been a foreigner. But it was just a couple chatting in the street, and there was nothing to arouse her suspicions, and she passed the couple by and continued on her way..
At 6am John Davis, an elderly resident of number 29, came down the stairs, turned along the passage and opened the back door. The sight that he saw shook him to his bones. Seconds later three labourers walking along Hanbury Street were suddenly startled by a wild eyed old man who stumbled from the open door of number 29 shouting to them “men, come here!”
They followed him along the passageway and looked out into the back yard. There on the ground between the steps and the fence lay the horrifically mutilated body of Annie Chapman. Her throat had been cut back to her spine, she had been ripped open and, according to one newspaper, “it seemed as though her intestines had been thrown back in her face for they were lying across her shoulder.”
This time the killer had taken a trophy of his crime by cutting out and going off with Annie Chapman’s womb. And there in the corner of the yard was a freshly washed leather apron.
It soon transpired that the apron belonged to one of the residents of number 29 and was not in any way related to the crime.
But when the newspapers learnt of the find they so sensationalised it that the anti Semitism that had been bubbling away in the area for about a week, as a result of the "Leather Apron" scare finally boiled over into full scale anti-Jewish unrest.
Innocent Jews were attacked and beaten by baying English mobs screaming at them that “no Englishman is capable of crimes such as these.”
Faced with the alarming prospect that there might well be a full scale pogrom the police drastically increased the number of uniformed officers in the area in order to contain the unrest. Their presence seems to have had the desired effect, and by the 10th September emotions were beginning to calm.
It was on the 10th September that Sergeant William Thick went round to number 22 Mulberry Street and finally arrested John Pizer. But, under intense police interrogation he provided cast iron alibis for the nights of the two most recent murders and was quickly eliminated as a suspect. He even appeared at the inquest into Annie Chapman’s death where, with Sergeant Thick sitting next to him, he was publicly cleared of any involvement in the crimes.