Monday, 19 February 2018

Nicolaus Copernicus

Happy birthday Nicolaus Copernicus (19 February 1473), the man who realised the Earth orbits the Sun

Sunday, 18 February 2018


John George Haigh was born on 24 July 1909 in Stamford, Lincolnshire. He was an only child. His parents were members of the Plymouth Brethren a strict religious sect. When he was a child Haigh won a scholarship to a school in Wakefield, Yorkshire. When he left school Haigh became an apprentice engineer but he soon switched to doing office jobs. On 6 July 1934 he married a 21 year old woman named Beatrice Hammer. However the marriage was very short lived. 

Haigh began making money by fraud but he was quickly caught and in October 1934 he was sentenced to 15 months in prison. After his release Haigh worked for a short time for a man named William McSwan.

However Haigh soon returned to fraud. Haigh pretended to be a solicitor and offered to sell shares from deceased clients at below market prices. However he was caught because of an elementary mistake. On his notepaper he spelled Guildford as Guilford, missing out the letter d. In 1937 Haigh was sent back to prison for 4 years. Haigh was released in 1940 but he was returned to prison in 1941 for stealing. He was released again in 1943.

While in prison Haigh learned about a French murderer called Georges Sarret who dissolved his victims bodies in acid. (Sarret was caught and executed, a lesson lost on Haigh). In prison Haigh stole sulphuric acid and he experimented by dissolving dead mice in it. Haigh seems to have believed (foolishly) that you cannot prove murder without a body. He thought that if he destroyed a victim's body in acid he could never be convicted of murder. In fact under English law for a person to be convicted of murder the prosecution must show evidence that a murder has been committed. They are not required to produce the victim's body. Haigh seems to have misunderstood the phrase 'corpus delicti'. For a conviction there must be a corpus delicti but it means a body of evidence not a physical body. In any case Haigh did not completely destroy the body of his last victim with acid, as we shall see.

In 1944,by chance Haigh met his old employer William McSwan in The Goat pub in Kensington, London. Haigh renewed his friendship with William McSwan. On 6 September 1944 Haigh lured the unfortunate man to a basement and then hit him over the head several times with a metal bar. He then placed the body in a barrel and dissolved it in an oil drum filled with sulphuric acid. Once the body dissolved Haigh poured the remains down a drain.

But Haigh was now faced with the problem that William's parents would notice he was missing. Haigh told them William had gone into hiding in Scotland to avoid conscription. Haigh befriended William's parents and they employed him as a rent collector. However once World War II ended they wanted to know where their son was. So on 2 July Haigh lured Donald McSwan, William's father to his basement. He killed Donald by hitting him on the head with a metal bar. The same day Haigh invited the dead man's wife, Amy McSwan to the basement. She was killed in the same way. The unfortunate couple were then placed in oil drums and dissolved in acid. The remains were poured down a drain.

Haigh persuaded the McSwan's landlady they had gone to the USA and he had their letters forwarded to him, including rationing books and pension books. He also forged a signature giving him power of attorney. He was then able to sell their property. For 3 years Haigh lived a wealthy lifestyle but he then began to run out of money and he looked for more victims.

In 1947 John George Haigh rented a workshop in Leopold Road Crawley, West Sussex where he would commit his next murders. He replied to an advert for the sale of a house in London. Haigh offered the owners, Dr Archibald Henderson and his wife Rose more than the asking price. Haigh soon befriended the Henderson's. On 12 February 1948 Haigh persuaded Archie Henderson he was a successful businessman with a workshop in Crawley. Haigh stole Archie's gun then lured him to the workshop by pretending to show him an invention then shot him with the stolen gun. Haigh told Rose Henderson that her husband had been taken ill in Crawley and asked her to come and see him. He shot her too.

Haigh destroyed the bodies of Archie and Rose Henderson in oil drums with acid. However when they dissolved Haigh was faced with a problem. His basement in London had a drain down which he could pour dissolved remains but there was no such drain in his Crawley workshop. But outside was yard full of rubble. Haigh simply emptied the drums onto the ground. Haigh managed to persuade people the couple had gone to South Africa. Once again Haigh managed to sell their property. Yet once again he soon squandered it.

By 1949 Haigh needed another victim. At that time he was staying as a permanent guest in the Onslow Court Hotel in Kensington, London. A fellow guest was a 69 year old widow named Olive Durand-Deacon. Haigh told the unfortunate woman he was an engineer and she told him she had an idea to make and sell false fingernails. On 18 February Haigh persuaded Mrs Durand-Deacon to visit his workshop in Crawley. Once there he shot her. He then stripped her of a valuable Persian lamb coat and her jewels. Haigh then placed her body in a barrel of acid. 

But the disappearance of Mrs Durand-Deacon was soon noticed. Two days after she vanished her friend reported her missing. The police were suspicious of Haigh. (Mrs Durand-Deacon had told her friend she was going with him to his workshop) and a background search quickly revealed his criminal record. They also searched his workshop and found Haigh's gun. They also found a receipt for a dry cleaning shop for a Persian lamb coat. (the one that had belonged to Mrs Durand-Deacon). Later the police also found traces of the victim's body in yard outside the workshop including animal fat, gallstones and a piece of plastic denture that had survived the acid.

Faced with the evidence Haigh decided to confess but he feigned insanity. He told the police about the other victims, William McSwan and his parents and the Hendersons but he feigned insanity. Haigh claimed he drank the blood of his victims. But the ruse did not work. On 18 July 1949 John George Haigh went on trial at Lewes Crown Court. 

A psychiatrist named Dr Yellowlees testified that Haigh was insane. However the murders were obviously planned and premeditated for financial gain. Furthermore the fact that Haigh took such pains to avoid them being discovered clearly showed he knew was doing wrong in the eyes of the law. It took the jury just 17 minutes to find him guilty of murder. John George Haigh was duly sentenced to death. He was hanged on 10 August 1949.

Queen Mary

Queen Mary Tudor was born on 18 February 1516

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Bess of Hardwick

Bess of Hardwick died on 13 February 1608. She was one of the great women of the 16th century. She rose to be very rich. She was also 80 when she died, which was very old for that era. 

Sunday, 11 February 2018

Saturday, 10 February 2018

Velma Barfield

Velma Barfield was an arsenic poisoner. She is infamous not only for her crimes but because she was the first woman to be executed by lethal injection. Barfield was born in South Carolina on 23 October 1932. In she married a man named Thomas Burke in 1949. She had a son in 1951 and a daughter in 1953. But in the 1960s Velma became addicted to prescription drugs.

Then in 1969 her house burned down while she and the children were out. However her husband was inside and died of smoke inhalation. In 1970 Velma married a man named Jennings Barfield but he died less than a year later. Velma's mother, Lillian died in 1974. In 1976 Barfield got a job caring for an elderly couple, Montgomery and Dollie Edwards. Montgomery died in January and he was followed by Dollie in March. Barfield then cared for another elderly couple, John Henry and Record Lee. John Henry died in June 1977. Velma moved in with her boyfriend Stuart Taylor but he died in February 1978.

Barfield's sister called the police and told them that Velma was responsible for the death of Stuart Taylor and others. Barfield confessed to murdering her mother, Lillian, Montgomery and Dollie Edwards and John Henry Lee. However she was only convicted of the murder of Stuart Taylor. Velma Barfield was executed by lethal injection on 2 November 1984.

Friday, 9 February 2018

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens was born in Portsmouth on 7 February 1812

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Inventors who are not famous

A look at some inventors who are not famous but made life a bit better

The right to vote in 1918

On 6 February 1918 The Representation of the People Act received royal assent. For the first time all men in Britain were allowed to vote. Women over 30 were also allowed to vote.

Monday, 5 February 2018


My video about Portsmouth has reached 9,000 hits

Robert Peel

Happy birthday Robert Peel (5 February 1788) the man who formed the first real police force in Britain in 1829. They were called bobbies of peelers after him. 

Saturday, 3 February 2018

Gordon Cummins

Gordon Cummins was a serial killer in Britain in 1942. He is also known as the Blackout Ripper. (During the Second World War all lights had to be concealed to avoid helping German bombers. It was called the blackout). Cummins killed 4 women and attempted to kill 2 others. Cummins also mutilated 3 of his victims after death. Gordon Cummins was born in 1914. He later claimed he was the illegitimate son of a nobleman. After Cummins joined the RAF his fellow airmen called him 'the Duke' because of his claims. 

On Saturday 8 February 1942 Aircraftsman Gordon Cummins went for a night out in London. He met 37 year old Evelyn Oatley, a former dancer. She took him back to her flat in Wardour Street and killed her but her body was not found until Monday 10 February. Cummins strangled the woman then cut her throat. He also cut lower body was cut open with a tin opener. Fingerprints were found on the tin opener but Cummins did not have a criminal record his prints were not on file.

Meanwhile on Sunday 9 February 1942 Cummins robbed and strangled a woman named Margaret Hamilton in Montague Square. On Tuesday 11 February 1942 Cummins killed another woman. The victim was 43 year old Margaret Lowe. Margaret was found in her flat in Gosfield Street. Cummins strangled the unfortunate woman with a silk stocking. Cummins then cut her body. The pathologist Bernard Spilsbury described the mutilation as 'quite dreadful'.

On 12 February 1942 Gordon Cummins committed another murder. The victim was 32 year old Mrs Doris Jouannet in her flat in Sussex Gardens. Cummins strangled the woman then mutilated her dead body. On Friday 14 February 1942 Cummins met a woman named Greta Haywood. She was luckier than the other woman. She tried to leave Cummins but he went after her and attacked her. Cummins tried to strangle the woman in a doorway. (In 1942 the streets of London were completely dark. There were no street lights and householders covered up their windows to avoid letting any light shine out).

However in the darkness a passer-by heard the struggle and went to investigate. Cummins ran off but he left his gas mask case. (All servicemen carried a gas mask case). On it was a number, 525987 enabling the police to trace its owner. The same night, 14 February Cummins met another woman named Catherine Mulcahy and went to her flat. Cummins attacked the woman but fortunately she managed to fight him off. 

Cummins was arrested on 16 February 1942. His fingerprints matched those on the tin opener and items belonging to victims were found in his possession. So on 27 April 1942 Cummins was tried for the murder of Evelyn Oatley. (It was normal in Britain at that time for a person charged with murdering several people to be charged with only one murder). The trial only lasted for one day. Not surprisingly Cummins was found guilty and sentenced to death. Gordon Cummins, The Blackout Ripper was hanged on 25 June 1942 in Wandsworth Prison, London during an air raid.

Friday, 2 February 2018

Public Lavatories

In the Middle Ages there was a public lavatory over the River Fleet in London. (Now an underground river). However the first modern public lavatory opened in Fleet Street, London on 1 February 1852. (But only the men's section, the ladies section opened on 11 February).

Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Great Eastern

On 31 January a ship designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, The Great Eastern, was launched. 

Friday, 26 January 2018

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Gold Rush

On 24 January 1848 James Marshall struck gold at Sutters Mill in California beginning the California gold rush.

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Elizabeth Blackwell

On 23 January 1849 Elizabeth Blackwell became the first woman to qualify as a doctor in the USA. (The first woman in England to qualify as a doctor was Elizabeth Garrett Anderson in 1865).

Monday, 22 January 2018

Elizabeth Short

Elizabeth Short, known as the Black Dahlia was the victim of an unsolved murder that took place in 1947. She was just 22. Her naked body was found in the morning of Wednesday 15 January 1947 on a vacant building plot in the Leimert Park district of Los Angeles in California. Her body was found by a woman named Betty Bersinger who was walking with her 3 year old daughter.

It was a horrific murder. The body of Elizabeth Short had been cut in half at the waist with a sharp instrument. Her cheeks had been cut to make a grotesque parody of a smile. There were also other lacerations on her body. Elizabeth's arms were raised over her head and bent at the elbows, her legs were apart. The lack of blood at the scene indicated Elizabeth had been killed at another location then dumped on the plot. The killer had also washed the body. No attempt was made to conceal the body. It seems whoever killed her wanted to shock people by leaving the body in plain view.

The autopsy report revealed the cause of death was hemorrhage from lacerations and shock caused by blows to the head and face. Elizabeth was anatomically normal. (She did not have infantile genitalia). She was not pregnant.

From fingerprints detectives identified the dead woman as Elizabeth Short aged 22. She became known as the Black Dahlia but if she was called that before she died or if the nickname was invented afterwards is uncertain. Whenever the name was first used it probably came from a 1946 film called the Blue Dahlia, in which a man is suspected of murdering his wife. Elizabeth dyed her hair black and sometimes wore black clothes. Because of her appearance she was dubbed the Black Dahlia.

The life of Elizabeth Short

Elizabeth or Betty Short was born on 29 July 1924 in Hyde Park, Massachusetts. Elizabeth had four sisters, two older, Virginia and Dorothea and two younger, Eleanora and Muriel. Her parents were Cleo and Phoebe Short. In 1926 the family moved to Medford, Massachusetts and Elizabeth grew up in that town. Her father Cleo Short made miniature golf courses but in 1930 he left his family. Cleo parked his car near a bridge to make it look as if he had killed himself. Phoebe Short was left to raise her daughters alone. They lived in Salem Street. After a few years Cleo Short wrote to Phoebe and asked to be forgiven but she refused. However afterwards Elizabeth wrote to her father.

Elizabeth Short was a pretty girl with blue eyes and brown hair. Family and friends called her Betty. However Elizabeth suffered from asthma so in 1940 she was sent to the warmer climate of Florida for the winter months. She worked as a waitress. Elizabeth returned to Medford in the spring. She went to Florida again in the winter of 1941 and returned to Medford in the spring of 1942.

At the end of 1942 when she was 18 Elizabeth Short moved to California to stay with her father. However they did not get on. Elizabeth quarreled with her father and moved out. In January 1943 Elizabeth got a job as a civilian clerk in Camp Cooke, an army camp 10 miles north of Lompoc. (It is now Vendenberg Air Force Base). She worked there until late August. During that time Beth Short was voted camp cutie. However in September 1943, aged 19 she was arrested for under age drinking in Santa Barbara. Elizabeth was sent back to Medford. In the winter she moved to Miami Beach in Florida. Elizabeth continued to work as a waitress.

Despite her conviction for under age drinking, as an adult Elizabeth did not drink or smoke. She was also a courteous woman who did not swear.

At the end of December 1944 Elizabeth Short met Major Matthew M Gordon in Miami Beach. The couple soon got engaged. Tragically Major Gordon was killed in a plane crash on 10 August 1945 just days before the end of the Second World War.

In July 1946 Elizabeth went to Los Angeles to visit an old boyfriend named Joseph Fickling. However Fickling moved to another state. Elizabeth then stayed in hotels and people's homes, never staying anywhere for very long. Unfortunately being homeless made Elizabeth vulnerable.

In December 1946 Elizabeth Short went to San Diego. On 8 January 1947 a man named Robert Manley (known as 'Red' because of the color of his hair) offered to drive her to Los Angeles. They spent the night in a motel but, Manley said, they did not sleep together. The next day Thursday 9 January 1947 Manley took Elizabeth to Los Angeles bus station where she deposited luggage. He then went with her to the Biltmore Hotel. He left her there at about 6.30 pm.
Unfortunately where Elizabeth went after saying goodbye to him and what she did in the next 6 days is a mystery. At some point Elizabeth met the killer. He was probably a sexual sadist who lured Elizabeth to her death. He probably hated women. That raises the question: did he kill any other women? We will probably never know.
Cleo Short refused to identify the body of his daughter at the morgue. That task was left to her mother Phoebe. (Cleo Short also refused to attend his daughter's funeral).

The Black Dahlia Investigation

A massive investigation began but the killer was never found. As the last person to see Elizabeth Short alive, Red Manley was an obvious suspect. However he passed 2 lie detector tests and he had an alibi. Red Manley died in 1986. There were many other suspects but none could be linked to the murder.
On 24 January 1947 somebody sent a package to the Los Angeles Examiner. It contained Elizabeth Short's birth certificate, social security card, photos, a newspaper clipping about Matt Gordon and an address book belonging not to Elizabeth but to an acquaintance of hers named Mark Hansen. (Some of its pages had been torn out). In the package was a message made up of words cut from newspapers. It said 'Here is (sic) Dahlia's Belongings' and 'Letter to follow'. (These items were soaked in gasoline to remove fingerprints). It seems the killer reveled in his notoriety.
Later somebody calling himself 'The Black Dahlia Avenger' sent several more letters. However these other letters did not contain anything belonging to Elizabeth Short. They may have been hoaxes. Unfortunately many deranged people made false confessions to the murder which wasted a great deal of police time.

Meanwhile On 25 January 1947 the purse and one of the shoes belonging to Elizabeth Short were found in a dumpster several miles from where the body was found. (They were identified as hers by a friend, Robert 'Red' Manley). However they did not bring the police any closer to the killer.

The last detective who worked on the Black Dahlia case, Ralph Asdel died on 31 December 2003. (Ralph Asdel was a 26 year old detective at the time of the murder). Whoever killed Elizabeth Short is now almost certainly dead too and its unlikely we will ever know who he was.
Elizabeth Short was buried in Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland, California on 25 January 1947. (Elizabeth loved California).

In 1993 a memorial to Elizabeth Short was erected in her home town of Medford.

Saturday, 20 January 2018

Salem Witch Trials

On 20 January 1692 2 girls in Salem, Massachusetts started having fits. The result was the infamous Salem Witch Trials.

Thursday, 18 January 2018

Jack the Ripper

Jack the Ripper stalked the East End of London in 1888. However to this day we do not know his real name and it is unlikely we will ever know.

The Victims of Jack The Ripper

Martha Tabram (?)
It is not certain how many women Jack the Ripper killed. Most people believe there were 5 victims but its possible there were others. Martha Tabram may have been a victim. Martha was born in 1849 and she married in 1869. However she separated from her husband in 1875 and in the end she began selling herself. On 6 August 1888 Martha Tabram was with a woman known as Pearly Poll. They met two soldiers in a pub. At 2 pm on 7 August 1888 PC Thomas Barrett saw a soldier in George Yard. The soldier said he was waiting for a friend who had gone with a girl. Very likely the 'girl' was Martha.

The body of Martha Tabram was found early in the morning of 7 August on the stairs of a tenement block called George Yard Buildings. At 3.30 am a cab driver who lived in George Yard Buildings came home from work and saw what he thought was a woman sleeping on a first floor landing. At 4.45 a man named John Reeves left for work. By then it was getting light and Reeves saw the body of a woman in a pool of blood. Dr Timothy Killeen examined the body and he estimated Martha had been killed about 2.30 am.

Martha Tabram had been stabbed 39 times. The two soldiers were obvious suspects but they were never identified. However its possible that she was not killed by a soldier. Maybe she parted from him and met Jack The Ripper.

Mary Ann Nichols

Mary Ann Nichols also known as Polly Nichols was the first definite victim of Jack the Ripper. Mary Ann or Polly was born in 1845. When she was 19 she married a printer named William Nichols. They had 5 children named Edward, Percy, Alice, Eliza and Henry. However by 1880 the couple were separated. For a time William Nichols paid Polly 5 shillings a week but he stopped it in 1882 when he learned she was selling herself. Polly spent much of the next 8 years in the workhouse. However in April 1888 Polly Nichols found a job as a maid to a couple called Cowdray who lived in Wandsworth, London. But in July 1888 Polly ran off with clothes worth 3 pounds and 10 shillings (a considerable sum in 1888). By August 1888 Polly was living in doss houses in Whitechapel. At 1.20 am on Friday 31 August 1888 Polly Nichols went to a doss house in Thrawl Street but she was turned away because she did not have the money for a bed. She said 'I'll soon get my doss money, see what a jolly bonnet I've got now'. At 2.30 am Polly met a woman named Ellen Holland. Polly said she had earned her 'doss money' (money for a bed in a doss house) 3 times that day but had spent it on drink. Ellen tried to persuade Polly to return to the doss house in Thrawl Street but she refused. Instead Polly went off to earn more money.

At about 3.40 am the body of Polly Nichols was found in Bucks Row (now called Durward Street). The body was taken to Whitechapel Mortuary. There were two cuts in her throat and several cuts in her abdomen. Mary Ann Nichols aka Polly was buried in the City of London Cemetery on 6 September 1888.

Annie Chapman

The next victim of Jack the Ripper was called Annie Chapman. She was born Eliza Ann Smith in London in 1841. In 1869, aged 28 Annie married a coachman named John Chapman. They had 3 children but 1 daughter died in 1882. By then Annie was separated from her husband and he died in 1886. Annie lived by selling crochet work or flowers but sometimes she was forced to sell herself. At the time of her death Annie was living at a common lodging house in Dorset Street. At 11.30 pm on Friday 7 September Annie was allowed into the kitchen of the lodging house but at 1.35 am she was made to leave because she didn't have the money for a bed. She was last seen alive shortly before 5.30 am on Saturday 8 September. A woman saw Annie Chapman with a man in Hanbury Street. The man said 'will you?' and Annie replied 'yes'. The man was facing away from the witness but she said he had a deerstalker hat on and was 'shabby genteel' in appearance.

Then at about 5.25 am a man called Albert Cadosh went into the backyard of 27 Hanbury Street. He heard a woman in the backyard of no. 29 say 'no'. Then at about 6 am John Davis went into the backyard of 29 Hanbury Street and discovered the body of Annie Chapman. The body was taken to Whitechapel Infirmary and it was examined by Dr George Bagster Phillips. The murderer cut her throat. He also cut out her intestines and laid them on her shoulder. Annie Chapman was buried on 14 September 1888 at Manor Park Cemetery in Forest Gate.

Then on 27 September 1888 a letter arrived at the Central News Agency in London (which provided stories to London newspapers). The writer claimed he was the murderer. However it is generally believed the letter was a hoax. However the letter was signed Yours Truly Jack the Ripper. That became the name of the unknown murderer.

Elizabeth Stride

It is not certain if Elizabeth Stride was a victim of Jack the Ripper. She was born Elizabeth Gustafsdottir in Sweden in 1843. In 1865 she had a stillborn daughter. Then in 1866 Liz moved to London. In 1869 she married John Stride. They separated about 1877 and John died in 1884. Liz became known as 'Long Liz' because of her surname Stride.
At 11 pm on Saturday 29 September 1888 2 laborers saw Liz leaving a pub called the Bricklayers Arms in Settles Street. At 11.45 pm another laborer saw Liz with a man in Berner Street (now called Henriques Street). The man said 'You would say anything but your prayers'. Then at 12.30 PC Smith saw Liz with a man in Berner Street. The man was about 28. He was about 5 feet 7 inches tall and he was wearing a dark coat and a deerstalker hat. He was carrying a parcel wrapped in newspaper.

We are not certain what happened next. At 12.45 am a man named James Brown said he saw Liz with a man in nearby Fairclouth Street. The woman said 'No, not tonight. Maybe some other night'. However at the same time a man called Israel Schwartz claimed he saw Liz with a man in Berner Street. The man pushed Liz to the ground. Schwartz said he then saw a man on the other side of the street with a pipe. The man attacking Liz shouted 'Lipski!' (Israel Lipski was a murderer and his name was a term of anti-Semitic abuse). Schwartz fled from the scene. Obviously one of these witnesses was mistaken so we are not sure what happened.
At any rate the body of Elizabeth Stride was found at 1 am in Dutfields Yard off Berner Street A man called Louis Diemschutz was driving a pony and cart but when he tried to enter the yard the pony shied. It was very dark but when he lit a match Diemschutz saw the body of a woman. Her throat was cut but her body was not mutilated. Possibly Jack was interrupted before he could mutilate Liz Stride.

Dr Frederick Blackwell arrived at the scene at 1.10 am. He said Liz had been dead for no more than 20 minutes. If Israel Schwartz was right the man who pushed Elizabeth to the ground might have later murdered her. It is also possible she left the man who pushed her over and immediately afterwards she met Jack the Ripper.

Catherine Eddowes

The next victim of Jack the Ripper was Catherine or Kate Eddowes. She was born in Wolverhampton in 1842. Her family moved to London in 1843. When she was young Catherine Eddowes lived with a man named Thomas Conway and they had 3 children in 1863, 1868 and 1873 but the couple separated in 1880. From 1881 Catherine lived with a laborer named John Kelly. In September 1888 they went hop picking in Kent but when they returned to London at the end of the month they separated. At 8.30 pm on Saturday 29 September Catherine Eddowes was arrested for being drunk in Aldgate High Street. She was taken to Bishopsgate Police Station and locked in a cell to sober up. 

PC Hutt released Catherine at 1.00 am on Sunday 30 September. Catherine said 'I shall get a damn fine hiding when I get home'. PC Hutt replied 'And serves you right. You have no right to get drunk'. Her last words were 'Alright. Good night old cock'.

At 1.35 am 3 men said they saw Catherine Eddowes at the entrance to Church Passage (now called St James Passage). Eddowes had her hand on the man's chest. He was about 30 and was 5 feet 7 or 8 inches tall. He was of medium build and had a mustache. The body of Catherine Eddowes was found in a corner of Mitre Square by PC Watkins at 1.44 am.

The body was examined by Dr Frederick Brown. Her throat had been cut. Her intestines were drawn out and placed over the right shoulder. (Although a piece about 2 feet long had been cut off and placed between the body and the left arm). The left kidney was also missing from the body. Jack also made several cuts on her face.

Meanwhile at 2.55 am PC Long found a piece of apron at the bottom of the staircase of Wentworth Model Buildings in Goulston Street. The piece of apron had been cut from an apron worn by Catherine Eddowes. Above the piece of apron somebody had written the words 'The Juwes are the men that will not be blamed for nothing' in chalk. However it is not clear if Jack the Ripper wrote those words or if somebody else did so some time before the murder.

On 16 October 1888 George Lusk Chairman of the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee received a letter and a parcel. In it was half a human kidney. The writer claimed the kidney was from Catherine Eddowes. He said he fried and ate the other piece. It is generally believed it was a hoax. Catherine Eddowes was buried on 8 October 1888.

Mary Jane Kelly

The last definite victim of Jack the Ripper was an Irish woman named Mary Jane Kelly. Not much is known about her for sure. She was younger than the other victims and was about 25 when she died. Mary Jane was born about 1863 in Limerick, Ireland and it is said her family moved to Wales when she was small. By about 1884 Mary was living in London.
Mary lived in a single room in a building in Millers Court. That was a group of buildings arranged around a small courtyard. Millers Court was off Dorset Street and it was reached through an alley about 3 feet wide and 20 feet long. Her only furniture was a bed and a washstand and 2 small tables. Her body was found in this hovel.

At 2.00 am on Friday 9 November a man named George Hutchinson met Kelly in the street. She asked to borrow 6 pence but he did not have the money. As she walked away a stranger approached Mary. Hutchinson heard him say to her 'You will be alright for what I have told you'. He said the man was about 34 or 35 and was 5 feet 6 inches tall. Hutchinson described the man as 'shabby genteel'. He followed them to the entrance of Millers Court where Mary said to the man 'Alright my dear. Come along you will be comfortable'. She kissed the man and said she had lost her red handkerchief. The man gave her one to replace it. Hutchinson hung around for 45 minutes then left the area.

At about 3.45 am 3 people in Millers Court heard a cry of 'Oh murder!'. Nobody took any notice as such cries were common. Then at 10.45 the landlord sent a man to collect rent Mary owed. He reached through a broken windowpane and moved a coat hung as a curtain. He saw the mutilated body of Mary Jane Kelly.

Her breasts were cut off and the internal organs were removed from her abdomen. Her uterus, kidneys and breast were found under her head. Her other breast was found by her right foot. Her liver was placed between her feet. Her intestines were on the right side of the body and the spleen was on the left. Her face was obliterated. Jack had also cut the flesh off her thighs.

Mary Jane Kelly was buried in St Patrick's RC Cemetery in Leytonstone on 19 November 1888.

On the morning of 9 November Mrs Paumier was selling hot chestnuts on the corner of Widegate Street and Sandys Row. A man approached her and said: 'I suppose you have heard about the murder in Dorset Street?'. Mrs Paumier replied that she had. The man grinned and said: 'I know more about it than you do'. She said the man was about 5 feet 6 inches tall and he had a mustache. He wore a black coat and hat and he carried a black bag. However we do not know if he was Jack the Ripper or not.

Alice McKenzie (?)

Several months after the murder of Mary Jane Kelly a woman named Alice McKenzie was murdered. However it is unlikely she was a victim of Jack the Ripper because her throat was not cut. Instead she was stabbed in the neck twice and the body was not mutilated (although there were cuts in her abdomen). Alice was from Peterborough. She was born about 1849. She was known as Clay Pipe Alice because she smoked a pipe. At the time of her death Alice McKenzie was living in Gun Street with a man named John McCormack. However at 2.50 am on 17 July 1889 PC Andrews discovered the body of Alice McKenzie in Castle Alley. In July 1889 Alice McKenzie was buried in Plaistow cemetery.

The Pinchin Street Torso 1889 (?)

On 10 September 1889 PC Pennett found a woman's torso with its head and legs cut off covered by a piece of women's clothing under a railway arch in Pinchin Street. The abdomen was mutilated. The victim was never identified and the murderer was never caught. However it is unlikely the woman was a victim of Jack the Ripper because the killers method of dealing with the body was quite different.

Frances Coles 1891 (?)

A woman called Frances Coles was murdered in 1891 (she was also known as Carroty Nell). However it is unlikely she was a victim of Jack the Ripper because she was still alive when she was found, which does not sound like Jack. PC Thompson discovered the Frances Coles at 2.15 am on Friday 13 February in Swallow Gardens (which no longer exists). He shone his torch in her face and she opened one eye. However she died shortly afterwards. The murderer was never caught.

What Kind of Man Was Jack the Ripper?

Jack the Ripper must have been a local man since he knew his way in the streets and alleys. Jack probably had a job as he usually killed at the weekends. He was probably working class. People who probably saw Jack said he was not particularly well dressed. Furthermore if he lived locally it is unlikely he was well off as most people who lived in Whitechapel were working class. Jack the Ripper probably lived alone as he went out in the early hours of the morning and returned without arousing any suspicion. Witnesses said Jack was in his late 20s or early 30s and that is the age at which serial killers usually murder people.
Some people at the time thought he had some surgical skill but others disagreed. Jack the Ripper may have been a slaughter man. If he was he would be able to walk through the streets with blood on him without arousing suspicion. Lastly Jack obviously had a hatred of women. Why is not known but it has been suggested he was abused by his mother.

Some Jack the Ripper Suspects

William Bury

In 1888 William Bury lived in Bow London and he sold sawdust. In January 1889 he moved with his wife Ellen to Dundee. In February 1889 he strangled her with a rope then cut her body several times with a knife. Bury then went to the police but he claimed his wife committed suicide. Not surprisingly they did not believe him. Bury was hanged in April 1889. However it seems unlikely Bury was Jack the Ripper. Bury killed by strangulation with a rope while Jack the Ripper cut his victims throats. Jack also killed strangers while Bury killed his own wife. Furthermore it does not seem likely that Jack the Ripper would just go to the police and hand himself in.

George Chapman

George Chapman was born in Poland in 1865 (his real name was Severin Klosowski). He moved to London in the 1880s and later killed three women. He poisoned all three of them with antimony. (They were murdered in 1897, 1901 and 1902). Chapman was hanged in 1903. Again there is no evidence to link Chapman to Jack the Ripper and the murders he committed are obviously different. Jack killed strangers by cutting their throats and then mutilated them. Chapman poisoned women he knew. Furthermore in 1888 Chapman was only 23, which makes him younger than the man eyewitnesses saw.

David Cohen

On 7 December 1888 David Cohen was arrested as a lunatic wandering at large. He was sent to Whitechapel Workhouse Infirmary then to an asylum. Cohen was violent but he died of natural causes in October 1889. However there is nothing to link Cohen with Jack the Ripper and he was probably too deranged to have carried out the murders. Jack was cunning and he must have been able to act normally when not killing people to avoid suspicion. Cohen sounds as if he was too disorganized to have been Jack the Ripper.

Montague John Druitt

Montague Druitt was born in 1857 into a wealthy family in Dorset. In 1888 he was a barrister in London. He also worked part time in a school but for some reason he was dismissed from there on 30 November. Druitt committed suicide at the beginning of December 1888 by jumping in the Thames and his body was found on 31 December. Druitt left a note saying he feared he was going to be like his mother (she was mentally ill). He may also have been depressed about losing his job at the school. However there is no evidence that Druitt was Jack the Ripper. He seems to have become a suspect only because he killed himself about a month after the last murder.

Aaron Kosminski

On 7 February 1891 Aaron Kosminski was sent to an asylum and he stayed there until his death in 1919. Kosminski heard voices and ate food from the gutter. Obviously Kosminski was mentally ill but while he was in an asylum he was never violent (except once when he attacked somebody with a chair). It is said that Kosminski once threatened his sister with a knife. It seems likely it was a domestic argument. There is no evidence that Kosminski was Jack the Ripper.

Michael Ostrog

Michael Ostrog was born in Russia about 1833. He was a con man and a thief. However Ostrog was never violent. He was also tall and stood about 5 feet 11 inches tall, which makes him much too tall for any of the witness's descriptions of Jack the Ripper. Ostrog was also much older than the man seen by witnesses. Furthermore it is not certain if Ostrog was in London at the time of the murders. He was sentenced to 2 years for theft in Paris on 18 November 1888. All of which makes it very unlikely Ostrog was Jack the Ripper.

Francis Tumblety

Francis Tumblety was born in 1833. He was a quack doctor. Tumblety was in London in 1888. However he was in his mid 50s in 1888 and witnesses saw a much younger man. Furthermore he was 5 feet 10 inches tall. Tumblety was a rogue but there is no evidence that he was violent and there is nothing to link him with Jack the Ripper.

Prince Albert Victor, the Duke of Clarence

Prince Albert Victor was the grandson of Queen Victoria. He was born in 1864 and he died of influenza in 1892. However Albert Victor was taller than the man seen with victims of Jack the Ripper. And he had an alibi for the nights of the murders. When Polly Nichols and Annie Chapman were killed he was in Yorkshire. He was in Scotland when Liz Stride and Kate Eddowes were murdered and he was in Norfolk when Mary Kelly died. So it is very unlikely that Prince Albert Victor was Jack the Ripper. Unfortunately we will probably never know Jack the Ripper was. Too much time has now passed.


On 18 January 1778 Captain Cook became the first European to discover Hawaii

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Saturday, 6 January 2018

Joan of Arc

According to a tradition Joan of Arc was born on 6 January 1412. Not sure if it actually was that day but happy birthday anyway.

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Highway of Tears

The Highway of Tears is a name given to highway 16 in British Columbia, Canada because of a number of tragic murders and disappearances of young women along it or nearby. The Highway runs from the town of Prince George to the port of Prince Rupert on the coast. Along the route are several small towns and villages separated from each other by long distances. Other murders or disappearances happened along highway 5 and highway 97 nearby. Some of the victims were hitchhiking when they disappeared. Hitchhiking may be dangerous but because the area is thinly populated there is a lack of public transport. So for people without a vehicle hitchhiking is a necessity.

The first victim was 26 year old Gloria Moody. She was last seen in the town of Williams Lake in central British Columbia on 25 October 1969 leaving a bar. Her body was found in a woods the next day 10 kilometers west of the town. The next victim was 18 year old Micheline Pare in July 1970. She had been hitchhiking. Two women dropped her off at the gates of a ranch along highway 29 near the small town of Hudsons Hope in Northeast British Columbia. Her body was found on 8 August 1970.

The next victim was 19 year old Gale Weys. She was last seen on 19 October 1973 hitchhiking from Clearwater to Kamloops. Her body was later found south of Clearwater. On 6 November 1973 19 year old Pamela Darlingon was murdered in Kamloops. She was last seen in a bar. Her body was found in a park the next day.

On 9 August 1974 16 year old Colleen MacMillen from Lac La Hache went hitchhiking to a friends house. Her body was found on 4 September 1974 near 100 Mile House. For 38 years her murder was unsolved until DNA evidence provided the name of the killer. In 2012 it was discovered that he was an American called Bobby Jack Fowler. He worked as a roofer in Prince George in 1974. However Fowler was sent to prison in the USA in 1995 for kidnapping a young woman who fortunately managed to escape from him. He died in a US prison in 2006. It is strongly suspected that Fowler killed 2 other young women, Gale Weys and Pamela Darlington in 1973.

Meanwhile a 15 year old schoolgirl from Thornhill named Monica Ignas was murdered. She went missing on 13 December 1974. (Its believed she was on her way home from school). Her body was found on 6 April 1975 east of the town of Terrace in British Columbia.The youngest victim was 12 year old Monica Jack. She disappeared on 6 May 1978 while riding her bike near Nicola Lake. Her skeletal remains was found in June 1995 near the town of Merritt.

On 8 May 1981 33 year old Maureen Mosie was last seen in Salmon Arm. It is believed she was hitchhiking. Her body was found the next day near the town of Kamloops. A 16 year old girl, Shelly Anne Bascu was last seen on 3 May 1983 walking home along highway 16 from a friends house near Hinton, Alberta. Some of her clothing was later found near the Athabasca River but her body is still missing. On 26 August 1989 24 year old Alberta Williams went missing from Prince Rupert. Her body was later found about 37 kilometers from the town by highway 16. Then on 14 June 1990 15 year old Delphine Nikal went missing while trying to hitchhike from the town of Smithers in British Columbia to her home in Telkwa. She has never been found.

On 11 June 1994 16 year old Ramona Wilson was hitchhiking to a friend's house in the small town of Smithers when she disappeared. Her body was found on 9 April 1995 near Smithers airport. Lana Derrick aged 19 went missing on 7 October 1995. She was last seen at a gas station in Thornhill.

On 21 June 2002 24 year old Nicole Hoar went missing. Nicole was from Red Deer, Alberta and she was working as a tree planter in Prince George, British Columbia. She was last seen at a gas station on the outskirts of Prince George. Nicole planned to hitchhike to Smithers to see her sister. On 21 September 2005 22 year old Tamara Chipman went missing. She was last seen in the outskirts of Prince Rupert intending to hitchhike to Terrace.

Then on 2 February 2006 a 14 year old girl, Aielah Saric Auger went missing. Her body was found on 11 February 2006 near Tabor Mountain 20 kilometers west of Prince George along highway 16. Meanwhile in 2005 the Royal Canadian Mounted Police formed Project E-PANA to investigate unsolved murders. In 2007 the investigation was widened to include 13 murders and 5 disappearances along highways 16, 5 and 97. Then on 28 May 2011 20 year old Madison Scott went missing while camping at Hogsback Lake 25 kilometers south of the small town of Vanderhoof.

Sunday, 31 December 2017

Saturday, 30 December 2017


On 30 December 1916 Rasputin was killed. There is an enduring myth that Rasputin was some kind of superman and it was very difficult to kill him. When I was a teenager I read they tried to poison him with wine and cakes laced with cyanide but it had no effect. They then shot him but Rasputin was still moving so they battered him around the head. They then tied him up and threw him into a river. Rasputin drowned but not before he managed to get one of his arms free. In reality he was just as easy to kill as any other person. The pathologist found no trace of poison in his body and his family said he did not like sweet things and did not eat cakes. He was shot 3 times, twice in the chest and once in the head. (They probably shot him in the chest then shot him in the head at close range to finish him off). There was no water in his lungs so he was dead when he was thrown in the river (not surprising if he was shot in the head). Rasputin was no superman.

Friday, 29 December 2017

John Dalton

I wrote a little bio of the famous scientist John Dalton

Thursday, 28 December 2017


On 28 December 1694 Queen Mary of England and Scotland died of smallpox. It was a terrible disease. It left many people dead and others blind or pockmarked. Hooray for Edward Jenner who introduced vaccination in 1796. 

Wednesday, 27 December 2017

Sunday, 24 December 2017

King John

King John was born on 24 December 1166. I am not sure whether to say happy birthday! But at least he did found one of our great cities, Liverpool.

Saturday, 23 December 2017

Thursday, 21 December 2017

Crossword Puzzle

Happy birthday crossword. The first crossword puzzle was published on 21 December 1913 in the New York World. It was written by an Englishman called Arthur Wynne. Well done Arthur. 

Thursday, 14 December 2017

The South Pole

Man of the day: On 14 December 1911 Roald Amundsen became the first man to reach the South Pole

Wednesday, 13 December 2017