Of the Ripper's victims, perhaps Elizabeth Stride had the most storied past. Originating in Sweden as plain old Elizabeth Gustafsdotter in 1843, she had fallen into prostitution by her early 20s, having tried a brief stint in domestic service. Police records in Gothenburg registered her as a prostitute in 1865 and for the remainder of her life she would fall back into the trade at need, like so many women of her station in the late 19th century.
The trade came with enough dangers even before the Ripper's emergence. She was twice treated for venereal disease and gave birth to a stillborn girl. Perhaps it was these traumas that forced her to seek a new life in London, for in 1866 she arrived in England's capital - possibly in the 'service of a foreign gentleman' according to one account given at the inquest into her death.
By 1869, she was married to John Stride - a ship's carpenter - and the couple ran a coffee shop and stayed together until 1877, when she entered a workhouse, suggesting that both her finances and relationship had suffered.
On the fated evening of 30th September, anyone who knew Long Liz might have heard her tale of having been aboard the Princess Alice - a pleasure steamer which sank in the Thames in 1878 with the loss of perhaps as many as 650 souls. Her heart-rending tale told of the loss of her husband and two of her nine children - plus a kick in the face as she escaped that her permanently marred her speech.
This was all fantasy - possibly designed to enlist sympathy. In fact, she was living through a tempestuous relationship with one Michael Kidney - exacerbated by drink and violence.
Drink and violence. The two things that would characterise her last night on Earth. Having earnt some coppers cleaning the lodging house where she lived, she was in the pub by 6:30pm, drinking, and by 11pm that night was on the streets soliciting.
Sometime afterwards, a potentially critical incident was witnessed by Israel Schwarz. A woman, matching Stride's appearance was seen arguing and possibly being assaulted by a man. Schwarz would later identify her body as the woman he had seen. In the account recorded in the Home Office files:
"Israel Schwartz of 22 Helen Street, Backchurch Lane, stated that at this hour, turning into Berner Street from Commercial Road, and having gotten as far as the gateway where the murder was committed, he saw a man stop and speak to a woman, who was standing in the gateway. He tried to pull the woman into the street, but he turned her round and threw her down on the footway and the woman screamed three times, but not very loudly. On crossing to the opposite side of the street, he saw a second man lighting his pipe. The man who threw the woman down called out, apparently to the man on the opposite side of the road, "Lipski", and then Schwartz walked away, but finding that he was followed by the second man, he ran as far as the railway arch, but the man did not follow so far."
"Lipski" is alleged to have been a term of abuse towards Jews in the area in the wake of a notorious murder in the district a year or two prior to this incident by a man of this name.
Schwarz had seen Elizabeth Stride being assaulted near the spot where her body would be found. Perhaps he had even seen the Ripper at work. Certainly the police were keen to have his testimony, but he remained evasive about his ability to identify the man he saw.
At 1am, Louis Deimschutz entered Dutfield's Yard - a dark, hidden spot alongside the International Working Men's Educational Club. His horse, evidently sensing the body in the dark refused to go forward and Diemschutz felt with his whip to find the body himself. Assuming a drunken vagrant, he summoned help from the club and thus it was that Long Liz was discovered to be dead - her throat deeply slit.
At the inquest, the post mortem results were read out:
"The Body was fairly nourished. Over both shoulders, especially the right, and under the collarbone and in front of the chest there was a bluish discoloration, which I have watched and have seen on two occasions since.
There was a clear-cut incision on the neck. It was six inches in length and commenced two and a half inches in a straight line below the angle of the jaw, one half inch in over an undivided muscle, and then becoming deeper, dividing the sheath. The cut was very clean and deviated a little downwards. The arteries and other vessels contained in the sheath were all cut through.
The cut through the tissues on the right side was more superficial, and tailed off to about two inches below the right angle of the jaw. The deep vessels on that side were uninjured. From this is was evident that the hemorrhage was caused through the partial severance of the left carotid artery."
A Ripper Victim?
Students of the case will note that Stride's murder differs in one significant way from all other cases attributed to the Ripper's hand - for her body was unmolested by his blade. Unlike the ghastly work suffered by her fellow victims, her abdomen remained intact.
It has been argued that her death was unlike the other 'canonical' murders in other significant ways. Firstly, she showed no signs of having been strangled prior to her throat being cut. Secondly, the knife used was described at the inquest as being short and round-bladed, whereas all other Ripper victims appeared to have been killed by a long, straight-bladed knife. Finally, it is suggested that the Ripper was left-handed, whereas Stride's injuries and positioning suggest that her killer was right-handed.
In addition to this, reported sightings of Stride from the evening she was killed seem to suggest that she was with a lover rather than a stranger. At various times she was spotted kissing and hugging a man - which would be unusual behaviour for a the normally business-like transactions that characterise prostitution.
As most murders are actually committed by someone known to the victim, it has been persuasively argued that Stride was actually the victim of a lover - possibly her companion Michael Kidney - who essentially got away Scot-free purely by the unhappy coincidence of the Ripper's murder of Catherine Eddowes within minutes of Stride's death. With the idea of the 'double event' quickly taking root in the minds of investigating officers (and bolstered by a sensation seeking press) the crime was treated as part of a wider series rather than as a murder in its own terms.
So convinced were the police that Stride was a Ripper victim that two men who saw her with a man on the night of her death - Israel Schwarz and Joseph Lawende - were regarded as having potentially seen the Ripper and one of them was later used in an attempt to ID a suspect.