Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Profile of Jack the Ripper

The Crime and Crime-Scene Analysis

All the crime scenes were outdoors, with the exception of Mary Kelly's. By murdering his victims outdoors in a well-populated area, the offender increased his risk for detection and apprehension. To minimize that risk, he killed his victims in a quick blitz-like attack and immediately fled the scene after each murder. Based on the nature of the attacks, the offender would have been substantially stained by the victim's blood. While he appeared to control his victims, we do not know whether he cut himself during any of these attacks. Such accidental self-inflicted wounds are common in the type of disorganized, frenzied, stabbing/slashing attack employed by the offender. In all likelihood, he would have returned to his nearby home to change out of his bloody clothes and clean up after each of these murders. That indicates that he probably did not perceive his attacks as risky: he could get away quickly and hide.

George Yard buildings: where Martha Tabram was murdered.
George Yard buildings: where Martha Tabram was murdered.
Each of the murders occurred in the early morning hours over a weekend except Martha Tabram's murder, which occurred on a bank holiday, also a non-working day. Offenders, like the rest of us, rely on mental maps, which include both time and place. We choose to travel in familiar areas because it is comfortable to do so. Offenders typically choose their hunting grounds because they are familiar with them. This is especially noticeable when the crimes occur in such a confined geographic area as do these.

St. Mary's Church in Whitechapel, near where Emma Smith was assaulted.
St. Mary's Church in Whitechapel, near where Emma Smith was assaulted.
It's clear that Jack the Ripper chose to commit his crimes in Whitechapel for two reasons: (1) It was a target-rich environment, and (2) he was comfortable and familiar with the area as he probably lived and/or worked there. In addition, living or working in the Whitechapel area offered him potential legitimate cover if stopped and questioned by authorities about what he was doing in that neighborhood.

The core behavior, a quick kill with post mortem evisceration, can be seen developing across these murders. The first possible victim, Martha Tabram, although stabbed 39 times, was not eviscerated. Thus, she could have been either his first attempt, or not in the picture at all. I do believe that he started with Tabram, but that although he fantasized about evisceration and wanted to do so, he did not because he was either hesitant to do so or may have feared being interrupted.

Miller's Court, location of the murder of Mary Kelly.
Miller's Court, location of the murder of Mary Kelly.
However, the others were mutilated, with increasingly more cutting and dissection. In the outdoor scenes, the amount of post-mortem activity was limited, probably due again to the offender's concern for being detected or apprehended. In the only indoor scene, that of Mary Kelly, he was at a much lower risk for this, so he exploited this indoor environment by not only murdering Mary Kelly but also acting out his pathological fantasies for hours - something he was unable to do with the other victims.

With Kelly, it seems that he accomplished his full agenda, but this would not have satiated him. If he stopped killing, it was because he was arrested for something else, had left Whitechapel, or had sickened or died in some manner. I think it is least likely that the murders stopped because he moved from the area.

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