|A Ripperologist Article|
|This article originally appeared in Ripperologist magazine. Ripperologist is the most respected Ripper periodical on the market and has garnered our highest recommendation for serious students of the case. For more information, view our Ripperologist page. Our thanks to the editor of Ripperologist for permission to reprint this article.|
By Norma Buddle
George Chapman, convicted of serial wife poisoning and executed in 1903, has received comparatively limited attention over the past few years, in my opinion, as a candidate for Jack the Ripper; principally because many will not accept that a serial killer can change his modus operandi from that of a knife wielder to a poisoner.
The intention of this article is to reconsider his candidacy by looking a little more closely at some of the contested areas of his candidature, as well as taking a look at some of the other victims of knife assaults in Whitechapel in 1888 and a much later one in 1901. In the last instance the suspect was said by the victim to have been a “Jewish [foreign] looking” male of about 40 who she was said to have believed was Russian1.
I was recently struck by Chapman’s address at 126 Cable Street, where he had opened his first barbershop. Here was a man living on his own, operating his own barbershop, who had to be worth looking at a little more closely. Such a man would have the freedom to come and go, at all hours of the night. He lived close to the murder sites, but in a situation that was slightly out of the way and was reached through the less exposed thoroughfares of Whitechapel and the shadowed arches of a Victorian railway.
Moreover his Cable Street address in 1888 consisted of a shop — a barbershop — with flats above and probably a basement underneath. None of these shop fronts were ‘overlooked’ by neighbours, as in 1888 Cable Street was just a long row of shops and businesses on that side of the road, and an equally long row of railway arches on the other. All of these businesses and railway arches were empty of occupants after nightfall.
The railway line slices through Cable street and Pinchin Street — both streets being separated by a massive expanse of arched brickwork. Today these railway arches have been converted into lock up garages, but they still manage to impose their soulless character on the area; the only noise to break the silence coming from the reverberations of road and rail traffic. This then is where Severin Klosowski aka George Chapman gave his address to the Post Office Directory at some time during the latter half of 1888.
My interest in him grew considerably when I had worked out that he must have had his shop at 126 Cable Street registered before the deadline—the beginning of December 1888—for inclusion in the Post Office Directory of 1889. This led me to the statement of Mrs Radan, his first landlady, at his trial for murder on 14th January 1903, regarding the length of his stay at her home at 70 West India Dock Road that she said was about five months. The 1888 Post Office Directory lists him at 70 West India Dock Road. What is significant here is that in order for him to be included in the 1888 Post Office Directory, Severin Klosowski (aka George Chapman) would have had to be already living at 70 West India Dock Road before the beginning of December 1887. So, if we use Mrs Radan’s sworn testimony, we have him leaving her premises about five months after his arrival in the UK, which must have been before the beginning of December 1887.
We know from his hospital course receipts that he was in Warsaw up until February 1887, suggesting that he arrived in England some time between the months of March and December 1887. He therefore arrived at Mrs Radan’s some time between Spring 1887 and the end of November 1887. We know that in order for the Cable Street address to have been included in the 1889 directory he would have to have moved to 126 Cable Street before the beginning of December 1888. If we stay with Mrs Radan’s testimony, Chapman moved from West India Dock Road five months after his arrival, which would have been — at the latest — between the beginning of December 1887 and April 1888.
Thus, we have a young male, living alone in Whitechapel for the greater part of 1888 and up until his marriage to Lucy Baderski in October 1889. It may be interesting to note as an aside that when he lived with the Radans and worked in their barbershop in 1887/88 he made a good impression on them, helping them with medication when their son had fallen ill.
Contemporary maps of Whitechapel, Spitalfields and Bank, show Cable Street as being just round the corner from Berner Street, which could be reached by going under the railway arches, crossing Pinchin Street, up through Christian Street, left into Fairclough Street and right into Berner Street—a distance of about a quarter of a mile or possibly half a mile depending on where 126 Cable Street was positioned. In other words, a five to ten minute walk. A further eight to ten minutes would have him in Mitre Square and another five to ten minutes after that in Dorset Street followed by Hanbury Street.
Background Information on Severin Klosowski aka George Chapman:
Chapman was born Severin Klosowski in 1865 in the village of Nagornac, Poland. His father was a carpenter by trade but we do not know whether he was a master carpenter, owned his own business or worked for another carpenter. However, judging from the fact he could afford to apprentice his son to a surgeon for five years, we might suspect that he was reasonably comfortably off. When he was 15 years old, Chapman’s parents apprenticed him to Moshko Rappaport, Senior Surgeon in Zvolen, where Rappaport reported Severin was “diligent, of exemplary conduct, and studied with zeal the science of surgery2”. In Warsaw he worked as an assistant surgeon or feldscher for two more years before paying to attend a short hospital course in surgery at the age of 22 at the prestigious Praga Hospital in Warsaw. During this time he appears to have married because soon after his marriage to Lucy Baderski in October 1889, Lucy was dismayed to find that a woman had turned up with two young children, having apparently travelled from Poland, who claimed to be legally married to Klosowski. She was apparently soon sent packing.
Some have argued that his surgical ‘skills’ amounted to little more than being able to apply leeches and that Zvolen was little more than a village in Poland. However, his apprenticeship corresponds closely with the method of training in England during the early to mid-nineteenth century.
We are fortunately able to look at a parallel study of a five year apprenticeship to a ‘surgeon’ in England, followed by a ‘short hospital course in practical surgery’, albeit earlier in the 19th century , this involving John Keats, the poet. In Robert Gittings biography of Keats3 he tells us that Keats left school at 14 years and ten months and was apprenticed for five years to his local doctor, Thomas Hammond, in order to become a surgeon. To pay for his apprenticeship, Keats’s trustees had to pay £210 (worth at least 25,000 pounds today) for him as premium, a large sum of money in those days and required for all such medical apprenticeships, including that of an apothecary.
Hammond was a member of the Corporation of Surgeons, its younger members were Members of the Royal College of Surgeons. The house where Keats undertook his apprenticeship was in Church Street, Edmonton, which had a surgery in the garden and a room above the surgery where apprentices could live. Only one anecdote about his work with Hammond survives and this simply shows how many apprentices acted as a kind of superior servant for their masters, sweeping rooms or looking after horses. On the other hand, Gittings comments that Keats’s record in medicine shows that Hammond taught him well.
Apparently Keats did not get on too well with Hammond and was forced to live away from the surgery and pay board and lodging twice over. The premium, which Hammond would hardly return, was meant to cover living expenses.
In July 1815, a new Apothecaries Act prevented anyone in the UK from practising as an apothecary without being properly qualified as such and having passed an examination. A candidate would not even be allowed to be admitted to the examination unless he had previously served a five-year apprenticeship, followed by a short course in surgery at a hospital.
These conditions are likely to have applied equally in Poland in 1886 since much that took place in Poland, particularly in its health and municipal programmes in the 1870s was modelled on English systems that had recently been initiated in the UK—a prime example being the innovatory sewerage and gas works initiated in Warsaw in the 1870s. So Chapman following up his five-year apprenticeship as a surgeon with a short course in Hospital Surgery in the Praga in Warsaw, appears to have been more or less the norm throughout both Western and Eastern Europe. Warsaw had, in the late 18th century, been significantly influenced by the huge expansion programme for German-speaking territories instituted by Emperor Joseph in Austria, whose grand design for modernising the Hapsburg Empire in the latter part of the 18th century had included building hospitals in Omlutz , Linz  and Prague . These resulted in new facilities being set up in these European territories, such as Juliusspital at Wurzburg, Berlin’s charity hospital, and, in the Ukraine, the huge Obukhov Hospital4.
In fact, at the time these expansion programmes were being set up in the German-speaking states and in Eastern Europe at the end of the eighteenth century, England had actually been lagging behind in comparison with European standards. The jewel among 18th century hospitals was in fact Vienna’s Algemeine Krankenhaus [General Hospital] and it was actually France that led the way in ‘surgery’ as such, a little later. Paris drew students from all over Europe from the early nineteenth century onwards. All invasive surgery had depended on the “swift hand, sharp knife and cool nerve” of the operator to minimise pain. However the introduction of anaesthesia in the 1840s generated a significant number of successful Caesareans being performed in Paris, a practice that soon spread throughout Europe and Eastern Europe, with more and more mothers surviving in the early 1880s. The surgeon’s skills gradually began to include more and more invasive surgery with appendectomies also becoming more common towards the 1880s.
As has been demonstrated in the apprenticeship to surgery of the poet Keats, up until the 1850s, in England, practical instruction was always by apprenticeship. Up until this time, surgeons dealt with a multitude of palliative services such as lancing boils or bandaging wounds (i.e. they concentrated on mostly the exterior and extremities), avoiding except in the direst emergencies Caesarean sections and other invasive practices. After the 1850s textual examination began to replace apprenticeship in England5.
Polish medical systems from the middle of the 19th century appear to have been modelled very closely on those of England with a delay of around 10 years. Therefore, the sort of experience Chapman would have gained both in the surgery and at the hospital would have included obstetric experience, especially while assisting Rappaport in Zvolen. Infant and maternal deaths were still common in the 19th century Europe as well as the UK, doctors being sent for when midwifery skills proved inadequate to a crisis in the birth.
In Poland it was common practice among the Catholic population, of which Klosowski was a part, to ‘baptise in utero’ until well into the 20th century. This happened when it was clear that a mother was dying while giving birth and the local Catholic priest baptised the unborn baby by thrusting an instrument similar to a douche that forced water into the vagina, thus baptising the child during the mother’s death throes. This was a much dreaded practise, because it caused the dying woman further excruciating pain.
This common practice was likely to have been witnessed by Severin Klosowski, during his five-year apprenticeship period in Poland, when he would have assisted Rappaport with difficult and often fatal confinements. The baptism ‘in utero’ is hauntingly reminiscent of Emma Smith’s injuries.
At the Praga Hospital in Warsaw, he would also have learnt anatomy and practised dissection. Moreover, as a student at the Praga Hospital, he could have attended certain operations as a dresser. As a student, too, he would likely have witnessed some of the growing number of appendectomies and Caesareans that had by then begun to take place.
An early theory
Throughout the British Isles it had been a common, though frowned upon and unlawful practice, in the earlier part of the 19th century to make use of body snatchers and grave robbers to obtain anatomical specimens for a hospital.
The possibility that the Ripper was involved in the collection and purchase of organs was referred to at the very beginning of the series of Whitechapel murders by Wynne Baxter, the Coroner, on hearing of Annie Chapman’s missing womb, an indication that obtaining such items for medical schools could still be a lucrative practice by criminal elements.
There is no reason, therefore, to think that the practice was unheard of in Eastern Europe, where Chapman had been trained, especially in big city hospitals such as the Praga in Warsaw.
In 1888, an American agent is said to have approached the sub-curator of one of the pathological museums attached to one of the big medical schools in London, offering £20 for a number of specimens. The request was repeated at another London institution as well6. Given Chapman’s record of ruthless and criminal behaviour, had he seen or heard of such a lucrative offer, it’s quite possible he would have been capable of ‘obtaining’ such organs by fair means or foul.
As several East End barbershops were known to employ Eastern Europeans who had been trained as ‘assistant surgeons’ who could only obtain work in the UK as barbers, it’s possible unscrupulous traders in organs were still operating in London and made such propositions to them.
Moreover, Chapman would have known exactly how to preserve them.
Inspector Abberline, in a 1903 interview, suggested that the Ripper had gone to America to continue in the procuring of a lucrative supply of such organs and Chapman did soon leave for America (probably May 1889)7. This indicates that as experienced a policeman as Abberline may have known of such practices. However, it seems to me a bit unlikely that Chapman was engaged in such a racket. Although without family responsibilities in 1888 in England, having apparently abandoned his wife and two children in Poland, he was very busy running his barber shops in 1888, or later on his pub.
George Chapman”s surgical qualifications were posted on Casebook recently by Gareth Williams and are as follows8:
1. Receipt for 1 ruble (then approx 60 US cents?) paid to the Treasurer of the Society of Surgeons of the town of Radom on behalf of Klosowski. Signed by "N. Brodnitski", dated 1882.
2. A reference confirming the above, signed "Brodinski" [sic — note different spelling], Chief of the Society, this time dated 1885.
3. A receipt from the Surgical Society "for entering the name of Severin Klosowski, two rubles". (Undated?)
4. Apprenticed for approx 4.5 years to Moskho Rappaport. Certificate issued by Rappaport, "Senior Surgeon and proprietor of the surgery in the village of Zvolen", dated Jun 1885.
5. Reference supporting the above, confirming Klosowski's apprenticeship to Rappaport, and what he did (I quote: "i.e. cupping by means of glasses, leeches and other assistance in the science of surgery"). Signed by O.P. Olstetski, ‘medical practitioner in the village of Zvolen’, October 1885.
6. A certificate confirming that, from Oct 1st 1885 to January 1st 1886, Klosowski received instruction in "practical surgery" at Praga Hospital, Warsaw, and attesting to his good conduct. Signed "Krynick", Senior Surgeon. Also, a note of confirmation [apparently a routine character reference required to apply to the University of Warsaw] from "Kasievitz", Deputy at the Department of the Chief of Police, counter-signed "A. Darenskov" (Manager). These documents dated April 29th, 1886
7. Note confirming that Klosowski served as surgical assistant to "D. Moshkovski", between January 20th 1886 to November 16th 1886, and signed by Moshkovski.
8. Note certifying that Klosowski had been employed as assistant surgeon to C.F. Olshanksi, Town of Praga, between August 1885 and February 1886. Signed by Olshanski.
9. Petition from Klosowski, dated December 1886, applying to sit a "Junior Surgeon's" exam at Warsaw University, and enclosing the required documents — presumably including aforementioned references.
10. Letter from the Ministry of the Interior, stating that they had no objection to Klosowski's request to oppose his receiving the degree of ‘Junior Surgeon’, and that the necessary fees had been paid. Signed Dr M. Oreszaief (Collegiate Councillor) and A. Pominski (Secretary). Dated 5th December 1886.
11. Receipt from Warsaw Society of Assistant Surgeons, confirming that Klosowski had paid "hospital fees" of 4 rubles per month, and was paid up until 3rd March 1887. Signed "Cobalski" (Senior Surgeon), and dated 28th February 1887.
As can be seen, he left Poland having qualified as a Junior Surgeon in that country sometime after February 1887.
Why, then, did Chapman not work as a junior surgeon when he arrived in the UK?
The first thing to remember is that one of the problems that has always dogged immigrant workers coming to this country is that their qualifications are not recognised and they are therefore often unable to use the skills they have acquired in their country of origin to gain employment over here.
So, despite the long five-year apprenticeship Severin Klosowski had served, together with his two years as an ‘assistant surgeon’, followed by a practical course at the hospital, even the qualification of Feldscher (assistant surgeon) would not have been acceptable In England and he would not have been able to get a job as a junior surgeon.
Did the Ripper Possess Surgical Skills?
There is a good deal of evidence to show there was a strong body of opinion that believed the Ripper displayed both surgical and anatomical knowledge.
Alan Sharp, writing In Ripper Notes9, drew attention to the murder of a young woman in County Durham named Jane Beadmore in September 1888. The injuries she had sustained included a cut to the throat and a deeply gashed abdomen through which her intestines protruded. Dr Phillips was sent for to see whether he thought the knife wounds bore any resemblance to those inflicted by the Ripper, as it was considered possible the Ripper had fled north to escape detection. Dr Phillips’s reaction following his examination was that the wounds of Jane Beadmore were a “clumsy piece of butchery and showed none of the finesse and skill of the Whitechapel murderer.”
The Lancet, the journal of the British Medical Association joined in following the murder of Annie Chapman:
The murderer had shown “anatomical knowledge and skill, the uterus and appendages, with the upper portion of the vagina and two thirds of the bladder being entirely removed...the incisions cleanly cut, avoiding the rectum and dividing the vagina low enough to avoid injury to the cervix uteri. Obviously the work of an expert-of — one at least, who had such knowledge of anatomical and pathological examinations as to be enabled to secure the pelvic organs with one sweep of the knife....” The speed with which the killer worked also “pointed to the improbability of anyone but an expert performing the mutilations in so skilful a manner10.
Dr Phillips was an experienced and senior police surgeon of 23 years, working for Whitechapel’s H division, and he believed the Ripper had medical knowledge. When describing Annie Chapman’s mutilations at the inquest, he indicated that there were indications of knowledge of anatomy and anatomical skill several times “which were only less indicated in consequence of haste11”.
However, it was Dr Phillips’s comments, quoted in The Star of 24th December 1888 when reporting on the disputed death by strangulation that have persuaded me the most. He is quoted as saying:
The murderer must be a man who has studied, ‘the theory of strangulation’— for he evidently knew where to place the cord so as to immediately bring his victim under control it would be necessary to place the cord in the right place. It would be a very lucky stroke for a man at first attempt to hit upon the proper place.
I therefore find it difficult to equate this comment by an experienced medical practitioner with those that insist the Ripper may only have had the skill of a butcher or less. A butcher or man used to slaughtering animals would have been very unlikely to know how to subdue humans “by placing a tourniquet so as to seize the victim in such a way as to prevent the possibility of a scream12”.
Nor was Dr Phillips the only medical practitioner to believe the Ripper possessed surgical or anatomical skill.
Dr Brown, Police Surgeon of the City of London Police, who examined the body of Kate Eddowes in Mitre Square, also concluded there was evidence of medical skill and he was supported in this by Dr Sequeira.
Dr Brown: “The way in which mutilation had been affected showed the perpetrator possessed some anatomical knowledge” and later, when asked by Mr Crawford at the inquest whether it was “great anatomical knowledge” he answered, “a good deal of knowledge as to the position of the organs in the abdominal cavity and the way of removing them. Mr Crawford pressed on “You have spoken on the extraction of the left kidney, would it require a great deal of knowledge to remove it? To which Dr Brown replied, “It would require a great deal of knowledge as to its position to remove it. It is easily overlooked. It is covered by a membrane13.”
One of the most startling features of the Police Files on Jack the Ripper at Kew are in fact the numerous references to a doctor or student doctor or man with a black bag, needing to be trailed or interviewed or confronted.
Chapman as a trained surgeon clearly fitted the prevailing theory of the day.
English Language skills
Another of the objections many people have made to Chapman’s candidacy for Jack the Ripper was that given his “limited English” in the Autumn of 1888, Chapman would have been unlikely to have been able to persuade women to go with him into the dark and unsafe places the victims went with the Ripper.
At Chapman’s trial Wolff Levisohn, who was a traveller in hairdressing goods, said he had met Chapman in 1890 in the basement of the Whitehart Public House, on the corner of Whitechapel High Street and George Yard, where Chapman had a barbershop. Levisohn claimed that at this time Chapman spoke only Polish and a little Yiddish. However, we need to consider his statement carefully in the light of what research tells us today about the rate of acquisition of another language by people developing a second or third language as was the case with Chapman since he is said to have spoken Yiddish as well a his Mother Tongue, Polish. Wolff Levisohn himself was a Russian Pole who therefore would have spoken Polish or Yiddish and it would have been highly unnatural and a very forced situation for them to have used the English language to converse together.
We know that Chapman had set up his own barber’s shop in Cable Street some time in early 1888. According to the Post Office Directory he lived and worked there on his own up until he married Lucy Baderski, a Polish woman, in October 1889. The couple were married according to the rites of the German Roman Catholic Church.
Chapman, if he arrived in the UK in June 1887 and, in accordance with Mrs Radan’s testimony, left her premises some five months later, could have arrived in Cable Street, Whitechapel, as early as December 1887 or January 1888. Philip Sugden points out that we know from the receipt for hospital fees he paid in Warsaw in February 1887 that he was still in Poland at that point in time14. So taking an arrival date of June 1887, at latest, he would have had 14 months by September 1888 in which he could easily have acquired conversational skills in English through chatting with his English-speaking customers in his barbershop, an ideal environment in which to acquire basic interpersonal communication skills in English.
I worked for many years in the field of linguistic research into the development of minority achievement for a West London Education Authority. Research indicates that the average rate of development of ‘surface fluency’ (i.e.the manifestation of language proficiency in everyday comunicative context) takes between six months and two years. In academic terms these are called, ‘basic interpersonal communicative skills’ or BICS and in immigrant and refugee children of all ages, the rate of acquisition is fairly consistent and takes about 18 months. In terms of providing the opportunity for a learner of English to acquire such skills quickly, there could be no better environment than a barber’s shop! This is because in such a work place there would be ample opportunity to hear the rhythms, intonation, vocabulary and sentence structuring of the every day speech of customers. Not only that, but various speech patterning would have been reinforced in the daily phrases frequently repeated such as, “Will you have the same as last time, Sir?”, “Will you try something different today, Sir?” etc.
In Cable Street many of Chapman’s clients would have been native speakers of English such as Mr Marshall of Berner Street. Equally, there would have been a fair number of Eastern European Jews with whom Chapman could have conversed in Polish or Yiddish.
The Common Lodging House customers
Annie Millwood; Ada Wilson; Emma Smith  and Mary Ann Austin 
The Police file on the Whitechapel murders actually opened following the savage attack and murder of Emma Smith on April 3rd 1888. However, leading up to her brutal attack there had been a few unusual and unexplained attacks on women, the first recorded one being in White’s Row, close to Dorset Street.
The first woman we hear about, 38-year-old widow Annie Millwood, said she had been attacked by a man she did not know who took a clasp knife from his pocket and attacked her out of the blue. Annie’s injuries were said to have been similar to those of Martha Tabram, who was murdered some five hundred yards from where Annie lodged and only a few months later. Annie lodged in one of Crossingham’s notorious lodging houses, 8 White’s Row. Annie was admitted to the London Hospital with numerous stab wounds to her thighs and lower body. Whether Annie, like the other women, had taken a man back to her digs is not known, since “nobody” apparently witnessed the attack—or did they?
The case of Mary Ann Austin Whitechapel murdered in Whitechapel on 27th May 1901
Thanks to Rob Clack, in particular, we have an in-depth study of a Whitechapel Common Lodging House, in 1901. In his article ‘Death in London’s East End15’, we get a unique understanding of how the management system responded in the case of a violent assaults or murder happening on their premises. In this instance, when a woman died as a result of being viciously attacked by an unknown knife wielding man who she had booked in at, 35 Dorset Street. This was the same lodging house from which Annie Chapman was evicted on the night of her murder. And, In 1901, was still owned by William Crossingham.
Mary Ann Austin had first stayed at John McCarthy’s lodging house at 37 Dorset Street the previous weeks but she was thrown out by McCarthy’s wife the week before her murder and she moved on to 35 Dorset Street the following day.
Then, as now, it was unlawful to run a brothel or allow prostitutes to bring back clients but such business deals appear to have been tolerated in a number of common lodging houses just so long as there was no ‘trouble’ afterwards.
So, if a ‘client’ turned violent, the understanding was that that the violent behaviour stayed a
collective secret. Mary Ann was murdered by a man who she said, “had dark hair and a dark moustache and who looked Jewish.” According to a Mr Bates, who had followed the couple into the lodging house, “...the man was short, about 40 years of age, wore a grey check cap and had a red and black scarf round his neck and wore a silver ring on his left hand16”.
According to the Eastern Post of Saturday, 1st June 1901 “…Mary Ann Austin is said to have told one of her acquaintances that she was going to meet a RUSSIAN. [my capitals]. He was about 5ft 7ins tall. “Police also apparently were looking for someone who was “pale looking”.
The attack apparently happened when Mary Ann was sleeping. The couple had taken a bed together and, according to Mary Anne, she was “awakened by a sharp pain,” as though someone had driven a knife into her. The man had begun a savage knife attack that lasted through ten stab wounds and ended with a wound so deep that it pierced through her rectum, vagina and the wall of her abdomen. She died later that day17. It’s worth noting that the following information may never have come to light but for the determined probing of the Coroner, Wynne Baxter, who knew the repu- tation of Crossingham’s and other lodging houses and had presided over several of the earlier murders of Jack the Ripper, and he managed through cross-questioning the management and other lodgers and revealing the careful investigations of the police, to reveal a criminal and ruthless cover up at Crossingham’s. It was greatly to their credit that both coroner and police were eventually able to reveal the lengths so many of those involved had gone to in order to spread a net of disinformation about Mary Ann’s murder—including the fabrication of evidence to try to deflect the accusation of blame or negligence away from Crossingham’s and instead pin the blame for it on an innocent man; In this case her husband. He was consequently put through a distressing trial for her murder before fortunately being vindicated and acquitted. The inhuman behaviour of William Crossingham’s son-in-law, Daniel Sullivan, the lodging house deputy, toward the dying woman also came to light, In which he was described by witnesses as having “rolled her downstairs and throwing her into a cab like a bundle of rags18”.
The police were given a lead on a man answering some of the suspect’s appearance. The man was believed to have come up to London from Cardiff. However, this suspect was 5ft 10 ins tall whereas those who saw the couple put his height at about 5ft 7ins and Mary Austin herself described him to Dr Edwin Ridge at the hospital as “not being very tall.”
Chapman at this time was living in Union Street, Southwark, at the Monument Public House, which he ran. Southwark was one of the poorest districts of London at this time with a homeless population similar to that of Whitechapel across the Thames. He could have been at loose ends, having just dispatched one of his ‘wives’ through arsenic poisoning and yet to meet his last ‘wife’ and final victim, 18-year-old Maud Marsh, whom he met in August 1901.
It is perfectly possible for Chapman to have taken leave of his pub on the 27th May 1901, strolled across nearby Southwark Bridge to Upper Thames Street and either taken a tram into Spitalfields or sauntered up there himself on foot, a short journey taking him about half an hour at most on foot.
Reading about his mercurial disposition, his need to be always on the move, changing partners, his style of dress, his name, his work places, his jobs and his addresses and then reading about the callous poisoning of his wives, it seems possible that on that day In May he decided or was compelled by delusional voices in his head, to revisit one of his old haunts in Dorset Street and commit a Ripper-style knife murder and mutilation .
Common Lodging Houses
It needs to be remembered that all the victims of Jack the Ripper had used common lodging houses at one time and it’s important to realise they were the only refuge left for many of Whitechapel’s homeless and unemployed women. It doesn’t require a great stretch of the imagination, then, to consider that the common lodging house where Emma Smith had lodged for the past two years, was quite likely to have adopted ‘avoidance tactics’ similar to those of Crossingham’s management In regard to the police and their enquiries, and that when faced with a spotlight being shone on their premises, a similar blanket of silence fell upon all involved.
Emma Smith lodged at 18 George Street. Martha Tabram, whose murder followed Emma’s that August, lodged at 19 George Street. Mary Kelly had stayed at a George Street lodging house, too, in between when she and Barnett lodged at Cooley’s and Little Paternoster Row. They were made to leave after being deemed troublesome. In fact, it was only a few days after Mary was murdered that another fracas had broken out at 19 George Street, when a man and woman had “booked in” and loud screams were heard from a woman who was found to have had her throat cut. The man had fled, with blood on his hands and face, shouting “look what she has done”. The woman was named Annie Farmer and fortunately for her she survived the attack, which some thought was a thwarted Ripper attack19. But then life in these places was rough and fights weren’t unusual.
When the deputy of number 18 George Street, Mary Russell, saw Emma appear after Easter Bank Holiday in the early hours of Tuesday morning with her face bleeding and her right ear nearly torn off and complaining of pains in the abdomen, she may not have been that surprised. Mary Russell’s inquest testimony reported that Emma did not hold her drink well and that she had often seen Emma come home with black eyes given her by men and behaving like a madwoman after having had too much to drink.
So Emma, suffering from a painful internal injury on the night of 2nd April 1888, quite possibly found it necessary to resort to some subterfuge, despite the distress she was in, with her all-too-knowing and long-standing lodging house deputy. She may have been prompted to this by hearing of the experience of her friend and fellow lodging house dweller, 54-year-old, Margaret Hayes. Margaret said she had been hurt by “some men” just before Christmas in 1887 and had spent two weeks in the infirmary.
Margaret, along with Mary Russell and Annie Lee, had walked with Emma the half-mile to the London Hospital. Emma was allegedly reported to have been very reluctant to go to the hospital and very guarded in what she said about her attack and unwilling to go into details20, even with her companions, although she apparently pointed out the place where she said she was attacked.
Margaret Hayes gave testimony at Emma Smith’s inquest, she had seen Emma Smith at about 12.15am, talking with a man at the corner of Burdett Road and Farrance Street in Limehouse. Margaret said at the Inquest that this man wore a white silk handkerchief round his neck and a dark suit and was of medium height. Presumably, Margaret herself had been soliciting on these streets near the docks. She said at the inquest that she had fled the district because it was very rough and “she herself had been attacked there that night, by two men who had assaulted her after asking her the time, hit her and then ran away.” She was asked if she thought the man seen talking to Emma Smith was one of these men and she said she didn’t think so21. Frederick Treves, an intern at the Hospital in 1888 said that poor people dreaded the hospital because of all the stories that circulated about what went on there22.
Emma Smith was conscious and able to talk to Dr Haslip23 at the London Hospital about what happened to her, although he noted that he thought she had been drinking. She had referred to three men who had raped her earlier that morning near Osborn Street, Whitechapel, as she walked home and who made off with what little money she had.
She could not describe her attackers, although she said one was a youth of possibly 19. Emma seemed unwilling to go into any details, however, with either Doctor Haslip or Mary Russell24.
Inspector Edmund Reid’s report also noted “She would have passed a number of PCs en route but none was informed of the incident or asked to render assistance25”.
The problem with her statements is that nobody saw or heard such a gang in the vicinity of Osborn Road or Whitechapel Road at 1.30am that morning despite police constables being on duty in the area at that time. As stated above, Edmund Reid pointed out that Emma would have passed a number of PC’s en route but said nothing to them about the incident — nor did anyone else report seeing Emma on her way back to her lodgings.
Emma’s hospital records report her having said she was “married and a charwoman”, whereas in fact she was a widow who supported herself mostly through prostitution. This again suggests she was reluctant to admit she had been soliciting when her friend Margaret Hayes saw her at 12.15am in Limehouse.
If Emma was attacked at 1.30am, near Taylor Bros. Cocoa Factory in Osborne Street, which was 300 yards from where she lived at 18 George Street, it took her a very long time to reach home— well over two hours26. Also, if, in all that time, nobody saw her struggling to get home, that too is very strange. Emma arrived home around 4am. Curiously she managed to walk to the Hospital with the three women who supported her, and reached there by 5 a.m, according to reports in newspapers.
There was yet another brutal attack a half-mile from the corner of Burdett Road, where Emma Smith was last seen. This other attack was on a women named Ada Wilson at 12.30am on Wednesday, 28th March, 1888. Ada Wilson said a man had knocked on the door of 19 Maidment Street, Bow, which lay between the East India Dock Road and Bow Road. She claimed that when she opened the door, the man demanded money from her and when she didn’t give him any, he stabbed her twice in the throat. Although she bled profusely, she fortunately survived the attack.
It seems from the account of another female lodger living at the house that the man may actually have already been in the house and was a ‘client’of Ada Wilson, because the other lodger saw him actually inside the house with the door closed. If this was so, then Ada may well have been engaged in prostitution and the man may even have been a client there previously.
He was described as 5ft 6ins, fair haired with a fair moustache and a sunburnt skin27. Chapman, of course, had dark hair and a dark moustache but as a barber he could easily have lightened both his hair and his moustache, since he was in the barber shop business, all of which sold hair dye and wigs a plenty at this time.
An important discovery for me is the geographical situation in the Docklands area of the West India Dock Road and the East India Dock Road near the corner of Farrance Street and Burdett Road. This was where witness Margaret Hayes said at the inquest that she saw Emma at 12.15am on the morning of her murder.
This corner of Burdett Road is at the confluence of East India Dock Road and West India Dock Road and it was at 70 West India Dock Road that George Chapman was lodging with Mr and Mrs Radan and their family up until early summer 1888. The Radans had got on well with Klosowski and it Is conceivable that when he left their home and their shop, he missed their company and went visiting them there. After all, he was apparently living alone in Cable Street and it wasn’t far from West India Dock Road.
A witness description
It was 2am on Friday, 9 November, 1888 when George Hutchinson, a young man described as having a ‘military bearing’, had walked back from Romford in the dreary November rain and found he was too late to get into the Victoria Home Lodging House, Commercial Street, where he had been living. He had been unable to help a desperate Mary Kelly who had greeted him and tried to borrow sixpence from him as he himself was unemployed and flat broke, not even having the fare back from Romford. It was very soon after Mary left him that he saw a respectably dressed man approach her at the Intersection of Thrawl and Commercial streets.
Hutchinson waited over the weekend following Mary’s murder and after the Inquest Into her murder before reporting what he saw. However, at 6pm on Monday, 12 November, Hutchinson presented himself at Commercial Street police station to report his sighting to Inspector Abberline.
Hutchinson told inspector Abberline that Mary was a friend who had tried to borrow some money from him but that Hutchinson himself being completely broke, couldn’t help her; though on other occasions he had.
He told inspector Abberline that the man he saw had put his arm around Mary, joked with her and then crossed Commercial Street and walked with her to her room in Miller’s Court, off Dorset Street.
The man looked about 34-35 years old, and was about 5-6ft tall. He was pale complexioned with dark eyes and dark lashes. He described him as having a slight moustache curled up at each end, dark hair and a “very surly” expression. He wore a long coat whose collar and cuffs were trimmed with Astrakhan fur; underneath he wore a dark jacket, a light waistcoat and dark trousers. He wore a dark felt hat turned down in the middle, button boots and gaiters with white buttons and carried on him a very thick gold chain. He also noted that he had on a white linen collar with a black tie and a horseshoe pin. He carried a small parcel in his left hand with a strap round it28. Hutchinson explained that he had been surprised to see such a well-dressed man in her company, which had caused him to observe the man closely as he passed under the lamp. Hutchinson signed his witness statement in the presence of three other policemen. Soon after this, Inspector Abberline set out with George Hutchinson to try to find the “respectably dressed man with the curled up moustache” who, if Hutchinson’s account was correct, was the last person seen with Mary Kelly before she was murdered.
In the photograph we can see a slightly tense looking Chapman. He is wearing a long moustache, curled up at the ends and a very well tailored dark suit with a waistcoat, a dark tie and a white linen starched shirt with white cuffs showing. In his lapel he wears a flower. It looks like a carnation, which in the 1890s was about the most fashionable item a man could have worn. His eyes are quite sunken or deep set which seems to have matched Hutchinson’s description. Several other photos exist. One has him in a sailor’s peaked cap. Another shows him very dandified and sporting a thick watch chain. Clearly, Chapman liked to dress smartly and was quite a dandy, confirmed not only by the photographs but the same Mr Wolff Levisohn who met him in 1890 in the basement barbershop of the Whitehart Pub in Whitechapel Road. Another thought that has often occurred to me is that as a barber in Whitechapel Klosowski would have had access to the many wigs, hair dyes and various methods of disguise available at most Victorian barber shops in Whitechapel, and that if indeed it was him that Hutchinson saw with Mary Kelly, he could have been wearing a ‘toff’ disguise!
One final witness statement to consider was made at the inquest Into Mary Kelly’s murder by Sarah Lewis. She said that she passed Spitalfields Church at 2.30am on the morning of Mary Kelly’s murder, and noticed two or three people near the Britannia Pub. One, a respectably dressed young man with a dark moustache, was talking to a woman. They both appeared drunk. Lewis heard the man say “Are you coming?” and saw the woman turn away. She later said she had been accosted a few days before by the same young man, who had carried a black bag29 and who suggested he had something in it she and her friend might like to see. She said they both ran off, terrified. Later, her story became more elaborate and she described the man as “of average height, pale face, black moustache and wearing a long brown overcoat and very high hat30”.
I was impressed by how much focus had been put on people carrying black bags in the Jack the Ripper police files at Kew when I first went to look at the files.
Paul Bonner who researched for a BBC Jack the Ripper documentary in 1973, noted:
Many men, at least 100 in the file, were taken to the police station just for carrying black bags, having foreign accents, meeting women or talking about the Ripper in pubs, They were soon released when they were able to prove their identity31.
So the police had clearly had a very strong focus on these black bag carriers—and doctors!
Before leaving the subject of black bags, Philip Sugden tells us that the claim by the police that Chapman had a black bag was true. Apparently Harriet Greenaway, one of Chapman’s neighbours in Hastings, saw it and told Southwark Police Court about it in 1903.
Once, Mrs Chapman [Mary Spink] showed me a black bag secretly. Prisoner [Chapman] used to keep the bag. For what it’s worth, Chapman also wore a P and O cap—apparently some of the women who had escaped the Ripper said he always wore a P and O cap and carried a black bag32.
So could Chapman have been Jack the Ripper? Inspector Abberline, for one, certainly thought so when he heard about his trial for murder at Southwark in 1903.
At the time of the 1888 murders and even the 1901 murder, Chapman lived on his own and had the freedom to come and go as he pleased. He lived within easy walking distance of the crime scenes. He was in regular work like the Ripper appears to have been and he had practical experience and training in surgery.
His description tallies well with the descriptions given by several witnesses, including that of PC Smith, who, on the night of the double event, saw a man of about 5ft 7ins, respectably dressed, holding a newspaper parcel, talking to a woman in Berner Street. PC Smith later identified the woman as Elizabeth Stride and he said that she had worn a flower pinned to her jacket. Chapman himself was in the habit of wearing a flower in his lapel as can be seen in several of his photographs33. He also had a barbershop some time in the latter part of 1888 in Cable Street — just minutes from the Berner Street murder site. In fact he had himself down in the Post Office Directory as the occupant of 126 Cable Street in September 1889, when the headless body of a mutilated woman was found under the railway arches in Pinchin Street — the railway arches which were (and still are) opposite 126 Cable Street in the row of shops where Chapman’s barbershop stood.
Chapman had a history of violent abusive behaviour towards his ‘wives’. He took a knife to his wife, Lucy Baderski, in New Jersey and threatened to cut her head off with it, causing her to flee back to England in terror—as reported by The Daily Chronicle, 23 March 1903 — the threat to Lucy of decapitation is reminiscent of the near-decapitation of several of Jack the Ripper’s victims as reported by the police surgeons who examined them, and found their neck wounds reached the vertebrae. At his trial, information came to light revealing that he had been physically violent to several of his wives.
His modus operandi is the real stumbling block because it’s so far unheard of in the literature of serial murder to change from the knife to becoming a poisoner.
There are possibly two reasons for such a change of operandi.
If killing and mutilating had been his prime motivation, it’s possible that with the death of Mary Kelly, a point of satiation had been reached and such gruesome behaviour with the knife no longer had him in the same thrall. It is a known medical fact that any type of obsession or compulsive/addictive act can suddenly stop and leave the addict ‘clean’ of the need. This is possibly what may have happened to Chapman over the urge to mutilate the corpses of his victims.
I also believe that the poisoning of his wives may have more to do with expediency than with his ‘modus operandi’ or his murder method of choice. His wives had relatives who cared about them and visited them regularly. He could hardly have murdered them by strangulation or throat cutting and got away with it in such circumstances. As it was, he chose a method of poison that would arouse the least suspicion and was only discovered by accident by one of the doctors attending his last murder victim, that of his ‘wife’, eighteen-year-old Maud Marsh.
He stood to gain nothing from Maud’s death. She was the daughter of a labourer and left no money. With Bessie Taylor, his previous ‘wife’, he killed her before he could inherit anything from her. Mary Spink was the only one from whose money he had benefitted, but this was during her lifetime. When they set up their barber shop in Hastings, they provided the novelty extra of ‘musical shaves’ whereby Mary lathered and Chapman shaved in between providing a ‘sing-a-long’ In which Mary played popular tunes on the piano, while Chapman sang. It was during his bogus marriage to Mary Spink that the couple bought a boat and sailed up and down the coast at Hastings, with Chapman in a P and O hat, posing as a skipper.
That brings me to another aspect of Chapman’s personality, his world of make believe and romance. At various times he posed as a big game hunter and as an American—he displayed the Stars and Stripes prominently in his pubs. He often called himself an American, a pretence he kept up even with the judge at his murder trial in 1903. He also boasted about his exploits at sea.
With Mary Spink he caused offence to his landlady by kissing and cuddling Mary and conducting an indiscreet affair with her in front of others at the lodging house. Fantasy certainly seems to have played quite a significant part in the various roles Chapman adopted in his time.
The other reason I think he may have murdered his wives is the possibility that he didn‘t want them in the way when he brought potential victims back home. For example, homeless women he may have met at various locations in London who needed money and were willing to return to his pub with him.
We know that when he was in Hastings with Mary Spink, he dated a domestic servant, Alice Penfold. He told her he was a single man and the manager of a pianoforte shop. Had Chapman not needed to take Mary into account, he could have returned home with Alice and who knows what might have happened next? But Mary did need to be taken into account, at that point at any rate34.
Severin Klosowski was a man who was capable of multiple murder and I believe it unlikely that he only began his serial killing in 1895. The likelihood is that he continued to collect victims, from 1888 up until his arrest, and to bring them back to his pub whenever possible, where he could murder and possibly mutilate them, disposing of their remains by burying them in such places as underneath floor boards or in the garden or in the sea —or indeed wherever he happened to be.
There are two examples on record of him boasting of having no problems if ever it came to ‘getting rid of’ dead bodies or avoiding detection.
In the Daily Chronicle of 23rd March 1903 it was reported that Lucy Baderski, his real wife, had made a startling statement concerning an incident in Chapman’s New Jersey shop when he had ‘threatened to cut her head off’— pointing over to a place in the room where he meant to have buried her. She had protested “But the neighbours would have asked where I had gone to!” “Oh” retorted Klosowski calmly, “I should simply have told them that you had gone back to New York”.
A second occasion of Chapman mentioning the disposal of bodies was reported by Louise Morris in her deposition, 18th November 1902 at Southwark Police Court. Louise Morris was Maud Marsh’s sister, and she reported to police that she had told him it seemed strange that the doctor could not find out what was ailing Maud. He had retorted glibly, “I could give her a bit just like that”, and made a snapping gesture with his fingers, “and fifty doctors would not find out”.
In the light of such comments as these, from a man convicted of serial murder, the likelihood of him having got away with such crimes much earlier than 1895 has to be taken seriously.
Was it simply a coincidence that Klosowski’s barbershop address is recorded in the 1889 Post Office Directory as being at 126 Cable Street and that this happened to be right next to Pinchin Street, where the headless torso of a woman was discovered in September 1889?
James Monro submitted a detailed report to J. S. Sanders, the private secretary of Henry Matthews the Home Secretary, on 11th September 1889, the day after the torso was discovered. He stated he thought it unlikely it was a Ripper murder but admitted that it HAD been discovered in Whitechapel and that there was a ‘gash’ on the front part extending downwards to the organs of generation. Monro then added that such facts had to be accounted for. This report —the second he had sent on the discovery, was kept in Home Office files and closed until 199035.
The torso was never identified. Many women went missing from Whitechapel each week; many of them homeless.
Inspector Abberline expressed the view that he believed Chapman and the Ripper were one and the same. He was not alone in this either as Inspector Godley, who had been actively involved in the Ripper hunt and headed the Chapman Inquiry, thought so too. Likewise Detective Sergeant Arthur Neil who worked with Godley on the case and traced Lucy Baderski (Mrs Klosowski). Neil in fact had arranged for her to pick out her husband from an identity parade.
The history of Chapman's/Klosowski's life, was one of constant upheaval with multiple wives, multiple jobs, multiple names and addresses—why not more than one modus operandi?Notes
1 The Eastern Post, 1st June 1901 (See ‘Death in the Lodging House — The murder of Mary Ann Austin’ by Robert Clack, Ripper Notes 24, October 2005)
2 The Complete History of JtR, p. 441, Philip Sugden. (According to Sugden, Klosowski then left for the capital, Warsaw, with his certificate signed by Rappaport.)
3 John Keats, Robert Gittings, Penguin Classics (paperback)
4 Cambridge Illustrated History of Medicine, Roy Porter (Cambridge Illustrated History series)
6 Pall Mall Gazette 24th and 31st March, 1903 — See also Coroner Wynne Baxter’s summing up at Annie Chapman’s inquest on September 26th 1888 — Daily Telegraph, September 27th, 1888.
9 ‘A Ripper Victim that Wasn’t: The Capture of Jane Beadmore’s Killer’, Alan Sharp, Ripper Notes 25, January 2006
10 Lancet, 29th September, 1888
11 Times, 14th September, 1888
12 Star, 24th December, 1888
13 Times, 5th October 1888. Nick Warren, a practising surgeon, has also been quoted by Begg, Fido and Skinner in the A-Z, in the entry for ‘Dr Frederick Gordon Brown,’ as saying that from his own personal experience, because a kidney is so difficult to expose from the front of the body, the killer must have possessed some anatomical experience.
14 The Complete History of JtR, p. 441, Philip Sugden.
15 Ripper Notes 24, October 2005
16 Eastern Post, 1st June, 1901
17 Letter sent by Dr Franklin Hewltt Oliver, Divisional surgeon for H and G division who conducted the post mortem (See ‘Death in the Lodging House — The murder of Mary Ann Austin’ by Robert Clack, Ripper Notes 24, October 2005)
18 Eastern Post, 1st June, 1901.
19 Evening News, 21st November, 1888.
20 JtR — The Definitive History, p. 34, Paul Begg, Pearson Education Limited, 2005.
21 Lloyd's Weekly, 8th April, 1888.
22 The Elephant Man and Other Reminiscences, Frederick Treves, London: Cassell pp. 54-5
23 JtR — The Definitive History, page 34, Paul Begg, Pearson Education Limited, 2005. The Times, April 9th, 1888, gives the doctors name as Haslip, but he is reported as being called Hellier in Lloyd's Weekly of the same date and Inspector Reid calls him ‘Haslip’ in his report.
24 JtR — The Definitive History, p. 34, Paul Begg, Pearson Education Limited, 2005
25 Inspector Reid’s full report can be found in The Ultimate JtR Source Book, p. 4, Evans and Skinner. Constable and Robinson.
26 Chief Inspector West’s report states that she was attacked about 1.30am and Inspector Reid’s report states that Emma arrived back at her lodgings between 4 and 5am — which would make the time she took to get back to her lodgings at the very least two hours and probably much longer. The Ultimate JtR Source Book, p. 4, Evans and Skinner, Constable and Robinson.
27 East London Observer, 31st March, 1888.
28 George Hutchinson’s statement dated 12th November, 1888 — MEPO 3140 fol227-9
29 Sarah Lewis’ statement to the police, 9th November, 1888.
30 Times, 13th November, 1888.
31 Scotland Yard Investigates, Stewart P. Evans and Donald Rumbleow, p. 263. Sutton Publishing.
32 The Complete History of Jack the Ripper, Phillip Sugden, p. 444
33 Scotland Yard Investigates, Stewart P. Evans and Donald Rumbleow, p. 229. Sutton Publishing.
34 The Complete History of Jack the Ripper, Philip Sugden, p. 444