Annie Chapman
8th September 1888

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Annie Chapman

Annie Chapman


Annie Chapman led a life tainted by tragedy, falling from an apparently solid and stable life, with 3 children and a husband, to become one of the Ripper's victims in the squalor of the East End.

Born in 1841, she married John Chapman relatively late in life in 1869 and couple had 3 children. In the manner of desperately sad times in which they lived, the eldest daughter died of meningitis aged 12 and her younger brother was born a cripple - leading him to be sent away to a home. Perhaps it was the emotional pressure of these events that led the couple to separate in around 1884.

Annie had already been arrested for drunkenness several times in the Windsor area by this point, so it seems that she had come to drink by one means or another and found solace in it. That John died in 1886 of cirrhosis of the liver only served to compound her isolation and she soon fell into the unwelcoming embrace of the East End, shorn of the financial support he had given her to supplement her crochet work and flower-selling.

Inevitably in that dense, teeming slum, she turned to prostitution - a once jolly wife and mother fighting to survive in the poverty she found herself in. She was capable of holding down relationships with men: living with a John Sivvy (sometimes she is referred to as 'Anne Sivvey', although the two were never married) for a while, before becoming involved with a labourer, Ted Stanley.

Like all the Ripper's victims, Annie was supporting herself (and her drink habitat) through prostitution. In the early hours of September 8th - around 5:30 - she was seen by witness Elizabeth Long, who described seeing her talking to a man of 'shabby genteel' appearance near the back of 29 Hanbury Street. It is very likely that she was the last person to see Annie in life.

The body was found at 6am by market porter John Davis, who lived at the address. The police investigation of the scene recovered but a few sad items of possession: two pills  for a lung condition, part of a torn envelope, a piece of muslin. Annie had been seen wearing two brass rings some time before her death, but these were not found. Much speculation has surrounded the disappearance of the rings, but it is equally likely that she pawned or sold them prior to her death.

At the inquest, police doctor George Bagster-Phillips described her manner of death and the injuries she sustained, as he witnessed them in the yard of 29 Hanbury Street. His testimony only survives in a report in the Times of 14th September 1888:

"The left arm was placed across the left breast. The legs were drawn up, the feet resting on the ground, and the knees turned outwards. The face was swollen and turned on the right side. The tongue protruded between the front teeth, but not beyond the lips. The tongue was evidently much swollen. The front teeth were perfect as far as the first molar, top and bottom and very fine teeth they were. The body was terribly mutilated ... the stiffness of the limbs was not marked, but was evidently commencing. He noticed that the throat was dissevered deeply; that the incision through the skin were jagged and reached right round the neck ... On the wooden paling between the yard in question and the next, smears of blood, corresponding to where the head of the deceased lay, were to be seen. These were about 14 inches from the ground, and immediately above the part where the blood from the neck lay.

The instrument used at the throat and abdomen was the same. It must have been a very sharp knife with a thin narrow blade, and must have been at least 6 to 8 inches in length, probably longer. He should say that the injuries could not have been inflicted by a bayonet or a sword bayonet. They could have been done by such an instrument as a medical man used for post-mortem purposes, but the ordinary surgical cases might not contain such an instrument. Those used by the slaughtermen, well ground down, might have caused them. He thought the knives used by those in the leather trade would not be long enough in the blade. There were indications of anatomical knowledge ... he should say that the deceased had been dead at least two hours, and probably more, when he first saw her; but it was right to mention that it was a fairly cool morning, and that the body would be more apt to cool rapidly from its having lost a great quantity of blood. There was no evidence ... of a struggle having taken place. He was positive the deceased entered the yard alive ...

A handkerchief was round the throat of the deceased when he saw it early in the morning. He should say it was not tied on after the throat was cut."

At the inquest, Dr. Phillips advanced the suggestion that the murderer displayed some degree of anatomical knowledge - an assertion which has divided opinion ever since. Some have used this claim to hang a hat on their favoured subject (for example, much is made of George Chapman's medical training in Poland).

Another suggested at the inquest has had similar repercussions for students of the Ripper case ever since. Coroner Baxter speculated that the murder may have in some way been incited by reports that an American had made enquiries at a London medical school about acquiring fresh female organs for some unspecified reason and was prepared to pay up to 20 for such. Baxter mused that: "the knowledge of this demand may have incited some abandoned wretch to posses himself of a specimen."

Whether Baxter was serious in his suggestion cannot be ascertained, but it was the only time he or anyone connected with the case mentioned this possibility (which was shot down in spluttering indignation by both the British Medical Journal and The Lancet within days).

On the morning of the 14th, her remains were committed to the grounds of Manor Park cemetery.

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The London Nobody Knows

In 1967, actor James Mason visited London as its change began to accelerate pace. In this brief, invaluable snippet, he visits the scene of Annie Chapman's murder. The building and yard no longer exist.