This busy illustrated front page is a relatively restrained example of what readers could expect from The Illustrated Police News. The paper tended to mix accurate reporting of criminal trials and coroners’s reports with wild speculation and gossip, but here it had clearly been caught cold. The near-simultaneous murders of Elizabeth Stride and Catherine Eddowes in Whitechapel shocked police, politicians and public alike – lending credence to the previously disreputable idea that there was a multiple murderer at work in East London.
This double-murder of September 1888 comprised the fifth and six fatal knife attacks on women to occur around Whitechapel since April that year. A sequence of similar attacks would continue till 1891 and claim eleven victims in total, with the police generally assuming the same lone attacker was responsible. This assumption was given extra impetus by a number of postcards received by the London Central News Agency that year claiming responsibility for the killings. The second of these postcards was signed ‘Jack The Ripper’.
Historians and forensic experts now tend to agree that only five murders were committed by the ‘Ripper’ figure, with the rest being copycat crimes or unrelated. The murders of Stride and Eddowes are generally considered ‘Ripper’ murders, both women being prostitutes, and both having been killed by deep knife-slashes to the throat. The murder of Eddowes occurred later in the night, and involved a great deal of post mortem mutilation, leading investigators to conclude that the killer had been interrupted in the earlier murder of Stride. None of the Whitechapel Murders has ever been solved.