The Whitechapel murders: the case of Jack the Ripper

Am J Forensic Med Pathol. 1981 Mar;2(1):53-60. doi: 10.1097/00000433-198103000-00010.


Between August 31 and November 9, 1888, in the Whitechapel section of the East End of London, the murders of five women came to be referred to as the notorious Jack the Ripper murder cases. Each victim was a woman of the streets who was a heavy drinker and apparently heavily intoxicated when she was killed. All except one were strangled, had their throats cut, and were mutilated after they were killed. The victim who was not mutilated was strangled and saved from desecration when the killer was startled and interrupted before carrying out postmortem mutilation. The last victim was killed indoors, and all deaths occurred late in the evening or in the early morning hours. Forensic science laboratories were not yet developed, so the only truly forensic examinations were made on the bodies and of the notes which the killer was alleged to have sent to the police and others. After the last crime there were no further communications with the murderer, and no one was ever charged with these crimes. This case has become the standard to which similar cases have been compared for the past century. It has been the subject for many fictionalized works written in many languages, including cinema and television productions. This case is reviewed and evaluated as to how a similar case may be investigated using modern forensic techniques.

Publication types

  • Bibliography
  • Biography
  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Asphyxia
  • Bibliographies as Topic
  • Famous Persons*
  • Female
  • Forensic Medicine / history
  • History, 19th Century
  • Homicide*
  • Humans
  • London
  • Middle Aged
  • Pharynx / injuries
  • Sex Work
  • Wounds, Penetrating

Personal name as subject

  • None Jack the Ripper