VICTIM OF JACK THE RIPPER
On the last day of her life, 29th September 1888, Elizabeth or “Long Liz” Stride spent much of the afternoon cleaning rooms at the lodging house at number 32 Flower and Dean Street where she had lived on and off for the past six years.
She was paid six pence for her services and at 7pm she dressed "ready to go out" to use the words of a fellow resident at the subsequent inquest in to her death. She duly left the lodging house house at around 7.30pm.
There was a heavy downpour that night and at around 11pm two men, J. Best and John Gardner saw her sheltering in the doorway of a pub on Settle Street. She was with a man who the witnesses later described as being around 5 foot 5 inches tall. He had a black moustache, sandy eyelashes and was wearing a black morning suit together with a billycock hat.
Best later recalled that the man was:- “...hugging and kissing her, and as he seemed a respectably dressed man, we were rather astonished at the way he was going on with the woman.”
Astonished as they were at the couple's behaviour Best and Gardner decided to have a little light-hearted banter at the couple's expense and jested to the woman that she should watch out adding “...that’s Leather Apron getting round you!” This appeared to unsettle the couple and they hurried off towards Commercial Road.
Forty-five minutes later a labourer by the name of William Marshall, who lived at 64 Berner Street, was standing outside his house and noticed a couple kissing on the pavement outside number 63. He heard the man tell the woman that she would say "anything but your prayers.” The couple then moved off heading along Berner Street.
According to Marshall the man was middle aged with the appearance of a clerk He was about 5 foot 6 inches tall, somewhat stout, respectably dresses and clean shaven. He was wearing a small, black, cutaway coat, dark trousers, and a round cap with a small sailor-like peak.
At 12.30am PC William Smith was walking his beat along Berner Street when he passed a man and a woman on the opposite side of the road to Dutfield’s Yard, where Elizabeth Stride’s body was later discovered.
He recalled that the man was approximately 28 years old, with a dark complexion and a small dark moustache. He was about five foot seven inches tall, had on a dark overcoat, a hard, felt, deerstalker, dark hat, and ark clothing.
The woman, whom Smith later identified as Elizabeth Stride, had a flower pinned to her jacket. However, the couple were doing nothing that aroused Smith’s suspicions, so he continued on his beat keeping ahead onto Commercial Road.
The most important witness to have seen Elizabeth Stride, in the 30 minutes before her body was discovered in Dutfield’s Yard, was a Hungarian Jew by the name of Israel Swcharz.
At around 12.45am he turned into Berner Street and noticed a man walking ahead of him. The man stopped to talk to a woman who was standing in the gateway of Dutfield’s Yard. Later, Schwartz was emphatic that the woman had seen was Elizabeth Stride. The man was about 5 feet, 5 inches tall, aged around 30 with dark hair, a fair complexion, a small brown moustache. He had a full face, broad shoulders and appeared to be slightly intoxicated.
As Schwartz looked on, the man suddenly began attacking the woman whereupon she screamed three times, but not very loudly. Schwartz was convinced that this was a domestic attack, and so he crossed the road to avoid getting involved.
But as he did so, he encountered a second man standing, lighting his pipe. This second man began to follow Schwartz who panicked, ran as fast as he could, and succeeded in losing to his pursuer.
The presence of this second man has led some commentators to conclude that the killer had an accomplice. There is, however, evidence to suggest that the police managed to trace him and were able to rule him out of any involvement.
At 1 a.m. Louise Diemshutz, the steward of the International Socialists Club that side on to Dutfield's Yard arrived back from Crystal Palace, where he had spent the day hawking cheap jewellery.
As he turned his pony and cart in to the yard the pony shied and pulled left. Diemshutz leant forward and saw a bundle lying on the ground in the yard. Reaching out with his whip he tried to lift it but couldn’t. He jumped down and struck a match. The match was extinguished by the breeze, but in its brief seconds flickering light he saw it was a woman lying on the ground.
For some reason he then presumed that it was his wife and that she was drunk. So he went into the club to check on her. Finding his wife in the kitchen, he went to the other club members and told them, “there’s a woman on the ground outside, and she is either dead or she’s drunk. I’m not sure which. They went out with candles and saw that her throat had been cut back to the spine.
But the rest of the body had not been touched and this later led the police to surmise that the killer had been interrupted as he went about his gruesome business.
Indeed, if you think about it. You can picture exactly what had happened. Having murdered Elizabeth Stride and commenced his mutilations by cutting her throat, he was suddenly surprised when the cart came into the yard. He, therefore, jumped back into the shadows, and it was that sudden movement that startled the pony, causing it to pull left.
Had Diemshutz acted differently at that point, the chances are that the world at large would never have heard of Jack the Ripper. Indeed there is a high probability that the killer of Elizabeth Stride was standing next to him in the darkness when he first discovered the body. Had Diemshutz raised the alarm there and then people would have come running and the killer would have been taken.
But Diemshutz didn’t raise the alarm, he thought it was his wife, so went into the club to check on her. This gave the murderer vital minutes to make his escape from Berner Street and head for the City of London, where 30 minutes later he had met with his second victim that morning.