Annie Chapman (born Eliza Ann Smith, c. 1841 – 8 September 1888), was a victim of the notorious unidentified serial killer Jack the Ripper, who killed and mutilated several women in the Whitechapel area of London from late August to early November 1888.
|The canonical five
Jack the Ripper victims
|Mary Ann Nichols|
|Mary Jane Kelly|
Annie Chapman was born Eliza Ann Smith. She was the daughter of George Smith of the 2nd Regiment Life Guards and Ruth Chapman. Her parents married after her birth, on 22 February 1842, in Paddington. Smith was a soldier at the time of his marriage, later becoming a domestic servant.
On 1 May 1869, Annie married her maternal relative John Chapman, a coachman, at All Saints Church in the Knightsbridge district of London. For some years the couple lived at addresses in West London, and they had three children:
In 1881 the family moved to Windsor, Berkshire, where John Chapman took a job as coachman to a farm bailiff. But young John had been born disabled, while their firstborn, Emily Ruth, died of meningitis shortly after at the age of 12. Following this, both Chapman and her husband took to heavy drinking and separated in 1884.
By the time of her death, young John was said to be in the care of a charitable school and the surviving daughter Annie Georgina, then an adolescent, was travelling with a circus in the French Third Republic.
Annie Chapman eventually moved to Whitechapel, where in 1886 she was living with a man who made wire sieves; because of this she was often known as Annie "Sievey" or "Siffey". After she and her husband separated, she had received an allowance of 10 shillings a week from him, but at the end of 1886 the payments stopped abruptly. On inquiring why they had stopped, she found her husband had died of alcohol-related causes. The sieve-maker left her soon after, possibly due to the cessation of her income. One of her friends later testified that Chapman became very depressed after this and seemed to give up on life. Her friends called her "Dark Annie", for her dark brown hair.
By 1888 Chapman was living in common lodging houses in Whitechapel, occasionally in the company of Edward "the Pensioner" Stanley, a bricklayer's labourer. She earned some income from crochet work, making antimacassars and selling flowers, supplemented by casual prostitution. An acquaintance described her as "very civil and industrious when sober", but noted "I have often seen her the worse for drink."
In the week before her death she was feeling ill after being bruised in a fight with Eliza Cooper, a fellow resident in Crossingham's lodging house at 35 Dorset Street, Spitalfields. The two were reportedly rivals for the affections of a local hawker called Harry, but Eliza claimed the fight was over a borrowed bar of soap that Annie had not returned.
According to the lodging house deputy Tim Donovan and the watchman John Evans, at about 1:45 a.m. on the morning of her death, Chapman found herself without money for her lodging and went out to earn some on the street. At the inquest one of the witnesses, Mrs. Elizabeth Long testified that she had seen Chapman talking to a man at about 5:30 a.m. just beyond the back yard of 29 Hanbury Street, Spitalfields. Mrs. Long described him as over forty, and a little taller than Chapman, with dark hair, and of foreign, "shabby-genteel" appearance. He was wearing a deer-stalker hat and dark overcoat. If correct in her identification of Chapman, it is likely that Long was the last person to see Chapman alive besides her murderer. Chapman's body was discovered at just before 6:00 a.m. on the morning of 8 September 1888 by a resident of number 29, market porter John Davis. She was lying on the ground near a doorway in the back yard. John Richardson, the son of a resident of the house, had been in the back yard shortly before 5 a.m. to trim a loose piece of leather from his boot, and carpenter Albert Cadosch had entered the neighbouring yard at 27 Hanbury Street at about 5:30 a.m., and heard voices in the yard followed by the sound of something falling against the fence.
Two pills, which she had for a lung condition, part of a torn envelope, a piece of muslin, and a comb were recovered from the yard. Brass rings that Chapman had been wearing earlier were not recovered, either because she had pawned them or because they had been stolen. All the pawnbrokers in the area were searched for the rings without success. The envelope bore the crest of the Sussex regiment, and was briefly thought to be related to Stanley who pretended to be an army pensioner, but the clue was eliminated from the inquiry after it was later traced to Crossingham's lodging house, where Chapman had taken up the envelope for re-use as a container for her pills. The press claimed that two farthings were found in the yard, but they are not mentioned in the surviving police records. The local inspector of the Metropolitan Police Service, Edmund Reid of H Division Whitechapel, was reported as mentioning them at an inquest in 1889, and the acting Commissioner of the City Police, Major Henry Smith, mentioned them in his memoirs. Smith's memoirs, however, are unreliable and embellished for dramatic effect, and were written more than twenty years after the event. He claimed that medical students polished farthings so they could be passed off as sovereigns to unsuspecting prostitutes, and so the presence of the farthings suggested the culprit was a medical student, but the price of a prostitute in the East End was likely to be much less than a sovereign.
The first officer on the scene was inspector Joseph Luniss Chandler of H Division, but Chief Inspector Donald Swanson of Scotland Yard was placed in overall command on 15 September. The murder was quickly linked to similar murders in the district, particularly to that of Mary Ann Nichols a week previously. Nichols had also suffered a slash to the throat and abdominal wounds, and a blade of similar size and design had been used. Swanson reported that an "immediate and searching enquiry was made at all common lodging houses to ascertain if anyone had entered that morning with blood on his hands or clothes, or under any suspicious circumstances". The body was conveyed later that day to Whitechapel mortuary in the same police ambulance, which was a handcart just large enough for one coffin, used for Nichols by Sergeant Edward Badham. Badham was the first to testify at the subsequent inquest.
The inquest was opened on 10 September at the Working Lad's Institute, Whitechapel, by local coroner Wynne Edwin Baxter. Evidence indicated that Chapman may have been killed as late as 5:30 a.m., in the enclosed back yard of a house occupied by sixteen people, none of whom had seen or heard anything at the time of the murder. The passage through the house to the back-yard was not locked, as it was frequented by the residents at all hours of the day, and the front door was wide open when the body was discovered. Richardson said that he had often seen strangers, both men and women, in the passage of the house. Dr George Bagster Phillips, the police surgeon, described the body as he saw it at 6:30 a.m. in the back yard of the house at 29 Hanbury Street:
The left arm was placed across the left breast. The legs were drawn up, the feet resting on the ground, and the knees turned outwards. The face was swollen and turned on the right side. The tongue protruded between the front teeth, but not beyond the lips. The tongue was evidently much swollen. The front teeth were perfect as far as the first molar, top and bottom and very fine teeth they were. The body was terribly mutilated ... the stiffness of the limbs was not marked, but was evidently commencing. He noticed that the throat was dissevered deeply; that the incision through the skin were jagged and reached right round the neck ... On the wooden paling between the yard in question and the next, smears of blood, corresponding to where the head of the deceased lay, were to be seen. These were about 14 inches from the ground, and immediately above the part where the blood from the neck lay. ...
The instrument used at the throat and abdomen was the same. It must have been a very sharp knife with a thin narrow blade, and must have been at least 6 to 8 inches in length, probably longer. He should say that the injuries could not have been inflicted by a bayonet or a sword bayonet. They could have been done by such an instrument as a medical man used for post-mortem purposes, but the ordinary surgical cases might not contain such an instrument. Those used by the slaughtermen, well ground down, might have caused them. He thought the knives used by those in the leather trade would not be long enough in the blade. There were indications of anatomical knowledge ... he should say that the deceased had been dead at least two hours, and probably more, when he first saw her; but it was right to mention that it was a fairly cool morning, and that the body would be more apt to cool rapidly from its having lost a great quantity of blood. There was no evidence ... of a struggle having taken place. He was positive the deceased entered the yard alive ...
A handkerchief was round the throat of the deceased when he saw it early in the morning. He should say it was not tied on after the throat was cut.
Her throat was cut from left to right, and she had been disembowelled, with her intestines thrown out of her abdomen over each of her shoulders. The morgue examination revealed that part of her uterus was missing. Chapman's protruding tongue and swollen face led Dr Phillips to think that she may have been asphyxiated with the handkerchief around her neck before her throat was cut. As there was no blood trail leading to the yard, he was certain that she was killed where she was found. He concluded that she suffered from a long-standing lung disease, that the victim was sober at the time of death, and had not consumed alcoholic beverages for at least some hours before it. Phillips was of the opinion that the murderer must have possessed anatomical knowledge to have sliced out the reproductive organs in a single movement with a blade about 6–8 inches (15–20 cm) long. However, the idea that the murderer possessed surgical skill was dismissed by other experts. As her body was not examined extensively at the scene, it has also been suggested that the organ was removed by mortuary staff, who took advantage of bodies that had already been opened to extract organs that they could then sell as surgical specimens. In his summing up, Coroner Baxter raised the possibility that Chapman was murdered deliberately to obtain the uterus, on the basis that an American had made inquiries at a London medical school for the purchase of such organs. The Lancet rejected Baxter's suggestion scathingly, pointed out "certain improbabilities and absurdities", and said it was "a grave error of judgement". The British Medical Journal was similarly dismissive, and reported that the physician who requested the samples was a highly reputable doctor, unnamed, who had left the country 18 months before the murder. Baxter dropped the theory and never referred to it again. The Chicago Tribune claimed the American doctor was from Philadelphia, and author Philip Sugden later speculated that the man in question was the notorious Francis Tumblety.
Dr Phillips's estimate of the time of death (4:30 a.m. or before) contradicted the testimony of the witnesses Richardson, Long and Cadosch, which placed the murder later. Victorian methods of estimating time of death, such as measuring body temperature, were crude, and Phillips highlighted at the inquest that the body could have cooled more quickly than normally expected.
Annie Chapman was buried on 14 September 1888. At 7:00 a.m. that day, a hearse supplied by Hanbury Street undertaker H. Smith went to the Whitechapel Mortuary in Montague Street, the utmost secrecy having been observed, and none but the undertaker, police, and relatives of the deceased knowing anything about the arrangements. Her body was placed in a black-draped elm coffin and was then driven to Harry Hawes, a Spitalfields undertaker, who arranged the funeral. At 9:00 a.m., the hearse (without mourning coaches so as not to attract the public's attention) took the body to the Manor Park Cemetery, Sebert Road, Forest Gate, London, where she was buried in a public grave.
Her relatives, who paid for the funeral, met the hearse at the cemetery and, by request, kept the funeral a secret and were the only mourners to attend. The coffin bore the words "Annie Chapman, died Sept. 8, 1888, aged 48 years." Chapman's grave no longer exists; it has since been buried over. In 2008, the cemetery authorities decided to mark her grave with a plaque.
A leather apron belonging to John Richardson lay under a tap in the yard, placed there by his mother who had washed it. Richardson was investigated thoroughly by the police, but was eliminated from the inquiry. Garbled reports of the apron probably fed rumours that a local Jew called "Leather Apron" was responsible for the murders. The Manchester Guardian reported that: "Whatever information may be in the possession of the police they deem it necessary to keep secret ... It is believed their attention is particularly directed to ... a notorious character known as 'Leather Apron'." Journalists were frustrated by the unwillingness of the CID to reveal details of their investigation to the public, and so resorted to writing reports of questionable veracity. Imaginative descriptions of "Leather Apron", using crude Jewish stereotypes, appeared in the press, but rival journalists dismissed these as "a mythical outgrowth of the reporter's fancy". John Pizer, a Polish Jew who made footwear from leather, was known by the name "Leather Apron" and was arrested, even though the investigating inspector reported that "at present there is no evidence whatsoever against him". He was soon released after the confirmation of his alibis. Pizer was called as a witness at Chapman's inquest to clear his name, and demolish the false lead that "Leather Apron" was the killer. Pizer successfully obtained monetary compensation from at least one newspaper that had named him as the murderer, and the name "Leather Apron" was soon supplanted by "Jack the Ripper" as the media's favourite moniker for the murderer.
The police made several other arrests. Ship's cook William Henry Piggott was detained after being found in possession of a blood-stained shirt while making misogynist remarks. He claimed that he had been bitten by a woman, and the blood was his. He was investigated, cleared and released. Swiss butcher Jacob Isenschmidt matched the description of a blood-stained man seen acting strangely on the morning of the murder by a public house landlady, Mrs Fiddymont. His distinctive appearance included a large ginger moustache, and he had a history of mental illness. He was detained in a mental asylum. German hairdresser Charles Ludwig was arrested after he attempted to stab a man at a coffee stall shortly after attacking a prostitute. Isenschmidt and Ludwig were exonerated after another murder was committed while they were in custody. Other suspects named in the police files and contemporary newspapers include Friedrich Schumacher, pedlar Edward McKenna, apothecary and mental patient Oswald Puckridge, and insane medical student John Sanders, but there was no evidence against any of them.
Edward Stanley was eliminated as a suspect as his alibis for the nights of two of the murders were confirmed. On 30–31 August, when Mary Ann Nichols was killed, he was on duty with the Hampshire militia in Gosport, and on the night of Chapman's murder he was at his lodgings.
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