August 31: On this day, 126 years ago...

  • Dhruba Jyoti Purkait, Hindustan Times
  • Updated: Aug 30, 2014 20:24 IST 126 years ago, Mary Ann Nichols, the first of the Whitechapel victims, was murdered. The most infamous mass murderer in history, simply known as Jack the Ripper, a contemporary of the fictional Sherlock Holmes, who terrorised the streets of London between August and November 1888.

He killed at least five women, and then vanished. For decadees, writers fused Holmes and Ripper in fiction, but even the genius of 221B, Baker Street, who started his practice a year before the first murder, was unsuccessful in solving the mystery.

This unknown killer has his own pop culture following – thousands of obsessed ripperologists, trying to solve the biggest unsolved crime in pop culture. Here are four things you should know:

1. The mastermind’s name comes from anonymous letters sent to the police and the press signed off as Jack the Ripper. ‘Ripper’ possibly because his victims were horribly mutilated.

. He killed early morning or over weekends and that’s all we know of the crimes.

3. Some claim he killed 11 women till 1891, but police versions pin the number at five – all prostitutes. He never left eyewitnesses. Queen Victoria thought the criminal was a butcher. (If ever there was a reason to check royal sanity.)

4. The murders occurred in Whitechapel in the impoverished East End of London. Jack was thought to be a medical professional since the mutilations were surgically done. Among suspects was Victoria’s own doctor.

No one knows if the murderer was a man. Jack might as well be Jill. Or just the figment of a journalist’s imagination. Elementary, my Watsons.

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