Was Martha Tabram Killed by Jack the Ripper?


August, 2020

Martha Tabram was murdered 132 years ago today. But was she killed by Jack the Ripper?

An unknown killer brutally murdered Martha Tabram in the East End of London on Tuesday, August 7, 1888.

The way the perpetrator killed Tabram leads many to believe that someone other than Jack the Ripper committed the murder.

But what if we’re focusing on the wrong information?

Discover the most important piece of information not only of Martha Tabram’s murder but of all the Whitechapel murders.

Martha Tabram Newspaper Article

Illustrated Police News sketch of the discovery of the body of Martha Tabram in George Yard.

Photograph by Wikipedia.

Jack the Ripper killed his victims in the most gruesome fashion. He slit their throats with a knife from left ear to right ear. This action severed the carotid artery, which was usually the cause of death. He then cut open their abdomens and removed their intestines and organs. 

The serial killer’s methods grew more elaborate and more vicious. He rendered his last victim, Mary Jane Kelly, unrecognizable.

Martha Tabram’s Murder Doesn’t Fit

Martha’s killer, by contrast, did not mutilate her abdomen or remove entrails. He, or possibly they, stabbed her 39 times. Her murder was also a horrific act, but it deviated from Jack the Ripper’s modus operandi.

Martha’s killer or killers used two different weapons. The main implement utilized was a shorter knife, such as a pen knife. The other weapon used was large, possibly a bayonet, which led some to speculate that the killer(s) might have been military. 

How the murderer wielded these weapons speaks to the nature of the murders. Some contemporary medical experts (and some, though fewer, modern ones) suggested that Jack the Ripper possessed at least some rudimentary anatomical knowledge, such as a butcher or a barber might have. Note: Barbers during the Victorian era sometimes had basic medical knowledge.

Others went as far to advance the idea that Jack the Ripper was a skilled medical practitioner, though that hypothesis has been all but debunked.

Martha Tabram’s murderer, however, displayed no anatomical understanding whatsoever.

Jack the Ripper London
Jack the Ripper Dagger

An Unreliable Witness

Mary Ann Connelly claimed to have gone bar-hopping with Martha Tabram on the night of her murder. They met a couple of soldiers and paired off. Connelly said that she returned to George Yard, the site of Tabram’s murder, a half hour after leaving her, but left when Tabram failed to appear.

Connelly proved to be unreliable and erratic. She eventually fingered two suspects in a lineup of soldiers, but their alibis quickly checked out. It seemed that Connelly had picked two soldiers at random. This was the final blow to Connelly’s credibility as a witness.

No One Knows Who Killed Martha Tabram

It all amounts to one thing: No one really knows what happened. No one will ever definitively know if Jack the Ripper killed Martha Tabram. Furthermore, no one will ever know for sure who Jack the Ripper killed.

Based on what we know, the canonical five are the most likely Jack the Ripper victims, but even they’re not a sure thing. The murder of Elizabeth Stride, the third canonical victim, didn’t exhibit the hallmarks of a typical Jack the Ripper murder. 

Many rationalize the departure of Stride’s murder with the “Double Event,” the only night during which two Whitechapel murders took place. They argue that passersby likely interrupted Jack the Ripper, forcing him to abandon his victim before he could perform his usual mutilations.

Which brings us back full circle: No one knows for certain what happened.

Obsession With Serial Killers

It doesn’t matter who Jack the Ripper killed. There were 11 Whitechapel murders. Does it matter if he killed four, five or seven of them? The women killed don’t care whether an infamous serial killer murdered them or a more conventional perpetrator killed them. Either way, they were savagely murdered.

We glean nothing new by poring over the murder details to ascertain the victims of Jack the Ripper. Truly, it reveals more about us. It demonstrates an obsession with “kill count,” which indicates a morbid reverence for prolific murderers. The internet is littered with lists of serial killers with the most number of victims.

Famous Serial Killer Pictures

Left to right: Ted Bundy, Charles Manson and Jeffrey Dahmer.

The Most Important Piece of Information

There were 11 Whitechapel murders. All of the victims were women. Working class women in East London, especially sex workers, were vulnerable to abuse. 

The so-called canonical five were all separated from their husbands, which initiated their decline. Victorian society was inhospitable to working class women, but especially toward women who separated from their husbands. These women had little recourse. They could no longer find “respectable” work. They were forced into the margins of society. 

Martha Tabram was killed because Victorian society abandoned her, just like it had with the canonical five.

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