On September 8, 1888, Jack the Ripper brutally murdered his second victim, Annie Chapman — and investigators in Whitechapel realized that they had a serial killer on their hands.
The first time anyone ever got a good look at Jack the Ripper was on the morning of September 8, 1888, shortly before he killed his second victim Annie Chapman. Then, a woman bustling down Hanbury Street at around 5:30 a.m. noticed a man and a woman talking.
The witness only saw the man’s back, but she later recalled that he looked like a “foreigner,” that he was of average height, that he was wrapped in a dark cloak, and that he was wearing a deerstalker hat, just like in some depictions of the fictional detective Sherlock Holmes.
The witness saw the man talking with Chapman, who she later identified to the police. She heard the man say, “Will you?” to which Chapman replied, “Yes.” Then the witness hurried on.
She didn’t know it then, but she was the last person to ever see Annie Chapman alive. And she was among the first — and certainly the few — to catch a glimpse of Jack the Ripper.
Exactly what transpired between Chapman and Jack the Ripper over the next 20 minutes is impossible to know today. But we know the aftermath all too well. Chapman and the killer ducked into a passageway that connected backyards on Hanbury Street, presumably because the killer had promised to pay Chapman for sex. Then, he viciously attacked her.
When Annie Chapman’s body was discovered dissected and mutilated later that morning, London police made the grim determination that there was a serial killer on the loose in Whitechapel. Chapman’s death bore a striking and unsettling resemblance to the murder of Mary Ann Nichols, who had been found just a week earlier. Both women were poor, both were sex workers, and both had been brutally attacked with a knife.
Indeed, even the men who found her body were sure that it was the work of the same man. News of Nichols’s barbaric murder had ricocheted through Whitechapel, and as they rushed toward a police constable to tell him what they’d found, they cried: “Another woman has been murdered!”
But who was Annie Chapman? How did she end up in a cycle of poverty in the seedy area of Whitechapel? And how did she come to cross paths with Jack the Ripper on September 8, 1888?
This is the tragic story of Jack the Ripper’s second victim, and how her brutal death spread fear throughout London, spurned the police to start arresting suspects, and even sparked a response from the killer himself.