Annie Chapman: The Second Victim of Jack the Ripper

In the previous article on the topic of Jack the Ripper, found here, we discussed the first fatality of the canonical five victims, Mary Ann Nichols. In the second installment, we will discover the brutal murder of Annie Chapman, the second canonical five victim.

Annie Chapman was born Annie Smith in September of 1841 to George Smith and Ruth Chapman. Annie had three sisters and one brother. In May 1869, Annie married a relative of her mother’s, John Chapman. Annie was 28 years old. She was described as a short, stout woman with blue eyes and dark brown, wavy hair. She was also known to have a love of rum.

The couple moved many times before settling in Windsor where John Chapman took a job as a domestic coachman. Together, they had three children (Emily, 1870, Annie, 1873, and John, 1880). John was disabled and thus sent to a home while Emily died at the age of 12 of meningitis. Annie and John separated mutually around 1884. Alleged police reports claim that Annie’s “drunken and immoral ways” led to the separation. She was arrested several times in Windsor for drunken behavior. Her husband also drank heavily.

John paid his wife 10 shillings a week after their separation, and she supplemented the income by selling crochet creations and flowers. After his death in 1886, she turned to prostitution as her primary income source. John died of cirrhosis of the liver and dropsy (swelling of body soft tissues). His death left her upset with downcast eyes for years after. She had a relationship with a man thought to have been named John Sivvey after her separation, but before her ex-husband’s death. He left her soon after her weekly payments stopped coming.

In mid-1888, Annie began living at Crossingham’s Lodging House at 35 Dorset Street, Spitalfields. It housed about 300 people. The relationship closest to her death was with Edward Stanley, known as ‘the Pensioner.’ The two spent quite a lot of time together at Crossingham’s. Edward had instructed the deputy watching the house, Timothy Donovan, to deny Annie lodging for the night if she returned with any other man but him. He often paid for Annie’s bed as well as another woman’s, Eliza Cooper.

Annie and John Chapman (approx. 1869)

Around September 1, 1888, Annie met with Edward on Brushfield Street. Around this time, she got into a fight with Eliza Cooper at a pub, presumably over Edward, which left her bruised and sore. Cooper claimed that the confrontation was at a pub, but the fight was later at the lodging house. A night watchman at the lodging house said that the fight was not over Edward, but over a bar of soap Annie had borrowed. Due to witness statements, the fight likely occurred at the lodging house at the end of August. Timothy Donovan stated that Annie was not at the lodging house the week before her death. She was not recorded to have been admitted to an infirmary for her injuries.

Amelia Palmer comes across Annie near a Christ Church, on September 3rd, noticing her bruises on her face. Annie shows her the bruising on her chest, and complains of feeling sick. She states she is on her way to meet her sister. “If I can get a pair of boots from my sister, I may go hop picking.” The next day, September 4th, Annie again runs into Amelia in front of Christ Church. Annie states again that she does not feel well, and she has not eaten or drank anything that day. Amelia gives her 2d for tea and warns her to not spend that on rum. On September 5th and 6th, she is assumed to have been in an infirmary for treatment, although there are no records supporting that. Donovan finds a bottle of medication in her room after her murder.

The Day of the Murder

Here is a brief timeline of the last day of Annie’s life.

  • 5:00 PM – Amelia Palmer sees Annie on Dorset Street. Annie is not drunk, but appears weak. Amelia asks if she is going to return to Stratford, where she works as a prostitute. Annie says she is too sick. “It’s no use my giving way,” she decides instead, after thought. “I must pull myself together and go out and get some money or I shall have no lodgings.”
  • 11:30 PM – Annie returns to the lodging house. With no money to pay for her room, she asks to go into the kitchen and rest.
  • 12:10 AM – Another lodger in the building, Frederick Stevens, says he shares a drink with Annie, who was already drunk. He says she did not leave the lodging house until 1 AM. Another lodger, William Stevens, enters the kitchen where he talks with Annie about visiting her family, who gave her 5 pence (which she must have spent on drink, to have nothing for her lodging). She leaves the kitchen and the lodging house.
  • 1:35 AM – Annie returns to the lodging house and eats a baked potato. John Evans is the night watchman for the house, sent to collect her bed money. Annie goes to see Donovan in his office, where she says, “I haven’t sufficient money for my bed, but don’t let it. I shall not be long before I’m in.” Donovan chastises her, “You can find money for your beer and you can’t find money for your bed.” She isn’t fazed by this statement.  “Never mind, Tim. I’ll soon be back.” She says to John Evans, “I won’t be long, Brummy (which is his nickname). See that Tim keeps the bed for me.” She stays regularly in room 29. She leaves the house and is seen going towards Brushfield Street, towards Spitalfields Market.
  • 4:45 AM – John Richardson walks in the backyard of 29 Hanbury Street on his way to work. He sits down to remove a piece of leather protruding from his shoe. This is a yard away from where Annie would later be found.
  • 5:30 AM – Elizabeth Long sees Annie with a man standing by 29 Hanbury Street, talking. Long hears the man say, “Will you?” to which Annie replies, “Yes.” Long heard a clock chime nearby, making her certain of the time. The man’s back was facing Long. Shortly after this, Albert Cadosch, a carpenter living at 27 Hanbury street, walks into his backyard. A 5-foot fence separates his home from 29 Hanbury. He hears a woman’s voice say, “No!” then hears something fall against the fence.
  • 5:30-6:00 AM – Annie’s body is discovered in the backyard of 29 Hanbury Street just before 6 AM by John Davis, a carman, who lived on the third floor of No. 29 with his family. He alerted others before going to the Commercial Street Police Station to report the crime.

Crossingham’s Lodging House illustration

Dr. George Bagster Phillips describes the body the way he saw it around 6:30 AM. Her face was swollen and turned to the right side. The body was mutilated, the limbs not yet stiffening. The neck had a jagged incision across the throat with smears of blood on the wooden fence separating 27 and 29 Hanbury Street. The instrument used to cut the throat and abdomen was found to be the same. It was determined to be a very sharp, narrow and thin blade, at least 6 to 8 inches long. There were indications of medical knowledge in the dissection of the body. The body appeared to have been deceased for 2 hours, but the chilly morning likely accounted for the cold temperature of the body. There was no evidence of a struggle, so Annie had likely entered the yard alive.

Here are some of the highlights of the post mortem examination:

  • “There was a bruise over the right temple. On the upper eyelid there was a bruise, and there were two distinct bruises, each the size of a man’s thumb, on the forepart of the top of the chest.”
  • “The throat had been severed as before described. the incisions into the skin indicated that they had been made from the left side of the neck. There were two distinct clean cuts on the left side of the spine. They were parallel with each other and separated by about half an inch.
  • “The deceased was far advanced in disease of the lungs and membranes of the brain, but they had nothing to do with the cause of death.”
  • “The bruises on the face were evidently recent, especially about the chin and side of the jaw, but the bruises in front of the chest and temple were of longer standing – probably of days.”

Annie’s swollen face and protruding tongue demonstrated signs of suffocation. The abdomen had been cut wide open, the intestines detached and lifted from the body and placed on the shoulder. The uterus and portion of the bladder was removed. No trace of the parts were found. The precise nature of the cutting led to the belief that the perpetrator held anatomical knowledge.

Annie Chapman was buried on Friday, September 14, 1888. Her funeral was kept a secret, at her family’s request, where only close members attended. The Daily Telegraph published this statement on September 15, 1888.

Memorial plaque in approx. location of burial spot

“The funeral of Annie Chapman took place early yesterday morning [14 Sep], the utmost secrecy having been observed, and none but the undertaker, police, and relatives of the deceased knew anything about the arrangements. Shortly after seven o’clock a hearse drew up outside the mortuary in Montague-street, and the body was quickly removed. At nine o’clock a start was made for Manor Park Cemetery. No coaches followed, as it was desired that public attention should not be attracted. Mr. Smith and other relatives met the body at the cemetery. The black-covered elm coffin bore the words “Annie Chapman, died Sept. 8, 1888, aged 48 years.”

Annie Chapman’s grave no longer exists, as it was buried over and covered. Annie’s body was discovered 8 days after the murder of Mary Ann Nichols. Murmurs began to swirl of a suspect named “Leather Apron” as well as initial rumors anti-Semitism in the area. After the initial murder, working women in the area described a man who frequently wore a leather apron. He was described as rough with the women. A local paper printed this theory, leading to assumptions that the murderer must be “Leather Apron.” Days after Annie’s murder, “Leather Apron” as arrested and quickly released with an ironclad alibi.

It wouldn’t be until September 27th that the first letter dubbed the “Dear Boss” letter would delivered to the Central News Office. This letter was written as follows:

Dear Boss,

I keep on hearing the police have caught me but they wont fix me just yet. I have laughed when they look so clever and talk about being on the right track. That joke about Leather Apron gave me real fits. I am down on whores and I shant quit ripping them till I do get buckled. Grand work the last job was. I gave the lady no time to squeal.

How can they catch me now. I love my work and want to start again. You will soon hear of me with my funny little games. I saved some of the proper red stuff in a ginger beer bottle over the last job to write with but it went thick like glue and I cant use it. Red ink is fit enough I hope ha ha. The next job I do I shall clip the ladys ears off and send to the police officers just for jolly wouldn’t you. Keep this letter back till I do a bit more work, then give it out straight.

My knife’s so nice and sharp I want to get to work right away if I get a chance.

Good Luck.

Yours truly

Jack the Ripper

Dont mind me giving the trade name. Wasnt good enough to post this before I got all the red ink off my hands curse it No luck yet. They say I’m a doctor now. ha ha”

The world was then formally introduced to Jack the Ripper.

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