August 31, 1888
Whitechapel, London, England
Mary Ann Nichols becomes Jack the Ripper’s first victim
Nichols was a prostitute by trade. She was denied a room in a boarding house because she lacked the funds to rent it and stated she would earn the money quickly because of a new bonnet she had purchased. Approximately an hour before her death, she was seen by her roommate and had boasted she had made 3 times the money needed to acquire the room, but had instead spent the money on alcohol.
Nichols’ body was discovered around 3:40 am by two cart drivers who could not tell if she was drunk or dead. They noted her skirt was pulled up and lowered the garment before alerting police. Upon further inspection, it was certain Nichols had been murdered. Her throat has been sliced which killed her almost immediately. She also had a deep, jagged wound across her abdomen, several smaller incisions on her abdomen, and 3-4 similar incisions on her right side. The weapon was believed to be a 6-8 inch long blade. It was estimated she had been killed 30 minutes before her body was found.
The lack of blood at the crime scene, coupled with the fact that no one heard the murder (residents in nearby houses, patrolling police officers, and knackers working overnight close to the scene), lead police to believe Nichols was murdered elsewhere and dumped. One of the Police Constables at the scene also described a “mass of congealed blood” under Nichols’ body when she was moved from the scene.
The following testimony was given during an inquest:
Five of the teeth were missing, and there was a slight laceration of the tongue. There was a bruise running along the lower part of the jaw on the right side of the face. That might have been caused by a blow from a fist or pressure from a thumb. There was a circular bruise on the left side of the face which also might have been inflicted by the pressure of the fingers. On the left side of the neck, about 1in. below the jaw, there was an incision about 4in. in length, and ran from a point immediately below the ear. On the same side, but an inch below, and commencing about 1in. in front of it, was a circular incision, which terminated at a point about 3in. below the right jaw. That incision completely severed all the tissues down to the vertebrae. The large vessels of the neck on both sides were severed. The incision was about 8in. in length. The cuts must have been caused by a long-bladed knife, moderately sharp, and used with great violence.
No blood was found on the breast, either of the body or the clothes. There were no injuries about the body until just about the lower part of the abdomen. Two or three inches from the left side was a wound running in a jagged manner. The wound was a very deep one, and the tissues were cut through. There were several incisions running across the abdomen. There were three or four similar cuts running downwards, on the right side, all of which had been caused by a knife which had been used violently and downwards. The injuries were from left to right and might have been done by a left-handed person. All the injuries had been caused by the same instrument.
(The left-handed theory was later disputed by its author, but the belief persisted.)
Though initially buried in a public grave with only a number identifying her, she was given a named plaque by cemetery authorities in 1996.
Today in Horror History: August 31