Jack the Ripper is a pseudonym of a murderer held to have been responsible
for at least five unsolved murders that took place in the Whitechapel area
of east London between August and November 1888. Among other widely publicized
and gruesome crimes of the period, the "Ripper" case has become one of
the most notorious in British criminal history: it has generated numerous
theories as to the true identity of the Ripper, as well as many fictional
versions of the story in novels and films.
The Ripper's victims-Annie Chapman, Catharine Eddowes, Mary Jane Kelly, Mary Ann (or Polly) Nichols, and Elizabeth Stride-were all prostitutes, who appeared to have been killed while soliciting clients. In each case the throat was cut, and the body was further mutilated in a manner suggesting that the murderer may have had medical training. The enormous public attention the case received highlighted the inability of the police to trace a suspect. "Jack the Ripper" was the name signed on various notes purporting to come from the murderer, and the police also received a package containing half a human kidney.
Theories as to the murderer's identity have pointed to a Russian doctor named Michael Ostrog and Montague John Druitt, a Harley Street surgeon, among others. There has also been a strong suggestion that the Ripper murders involved some connection between the squalid realities of London's East End demi-monde and the very highest levels of society in Victorian Britain. It has been said that they were instigated by eminent Freemasons, among them the Royal Physician, Sir William Gull, to avert a sexual scandal involving Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence, son of the Prince of Wales (the future Edward VII); suspicion has also fallen on the Duke of Clarence himself and on his purported male lover, James Kenneth Stephen.