Martha was murdered August 7th 1888 and does not belong to the “canon” 5 Jack the Ripper victims however she is included as one of the potentials and so I’ve decided she should get a mention due to her having been considered by some as a forerunner to the main event.

Martha, in her late 30’s, hung around with another prostitute the night before, known in the local area as Pearly Poll. They met two guardsmen and headed off around the local pubs of Whitechapel Road. At some point in the evening the four broke off into couples and after bargaining their prices for their services they took off. Martha took her john over to the arch that led to George Yard (for travelling tourists this is now Gunthorpe Street) this isolated area would be a good spot for a quick service, often known as four-penny knee tremblers. There were cheap apartments nearby at the George Yard Buildings for the poor, and the lights out at 11pm made the dark area perfect for the prostitutes work.

Mrs Hewitt was the wife of the buildings superintendent and she saw nothing on her way home from a celebratory evening with friends. This is hardly surprising though as the area is unlit, there was nothing to see, quite literally. At half past three that morning a taxi driver, Alfred George Crow, spots someone lying on the landing but thought no more of it, the area meant nothing would have been too unusual about it. After 5am John Saunders (labourer) saw her and this time was able to see that there was a pool of blood. He found a patrolling policeman (Constable T Barrett) who sent for a medic. She was pronounced dead having been brutally murdered.

The victim had 39 stab wounds from her throat to her lower abdomen. There were two blades used and it was ruled out that rape was the motive. There had been no sexual assault, it was vicious and without sound, the latter part being very unusual given the wounds inflicted. It was savage and shocking, but it is debatable if she was a ripper victim though investigating officers at the time felt that she was.

Taking the details at face value it doesn’t necessarily suggest she was due to the missing aspect of the mutilations. However there is some commonality in that she was attached in her throat and abdomen as the ripper had been identified to do on the other five accepted as canonical. I also think it is worth bearing in mind that as with many serial killers it has been found they escalate with their crimes and poor Martha may have been the “test run”.

  1. Jean Robert Bourdage says:

    The problem with Tabram’s murder is that nothing corroborates Pearly Poll’s testimony.

    Like Tom Wescott displays in his excellent book about the Bank Holiday murders, it is dubious that Tabram and Pearly were even friends.

    • Archard says:

      Thank you for taking the time to comment.
      It seems that like so many things around the cases the biggest problem is wading through the abundance of “evidence”, which I say loosely.
      Fantastic comment though, just because prostitutes were seen together doesn’t mean they were necessarily friends.

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