How The Thames Torso Murders Differ From The Jack The Ripper Murders

The so-called Jack the Ripper had a 'canonical' five victims, per BBC. The first, Mary Ann Nicholls, was killed on August 31, 1888. The last 'canon' victim, Mary Jane Kelly, died on November 9. Most people are familiar with the basics of these notorious killings, but there was another gruesome series of Victorian London murders that hid in the Ripper's shadow.

The Thames torso murders were a series of brutal slayings that took place near the banks of London's River Thames. Crime And Investigation reports that the murders appear to have begun in September of 1873, when one half of a woman's torso was recovered from the waterworks at Battersea by the police. The next day, the other section of the torso was found near Brunswick Wharf. Over the course of several weeks, other parts of the victim's body — including a thigh — were slowly discovered.

Then, in June 1874, another rotting body was found in the river, alongside Putney. In May 1887 a female torso and other body parts were discovered by the river in a village called Rainham. This awful pattern repeated in August 1888, and again in June 1889. Though there are parallels to be drawn between these deeds and the Ripper murders, some vital details set them apart.

The Thames torso killer was not Jack the Ripper

Whitechapel Jack states that the Thames torso murders, like the Ripper killings, were perpetrated by someone with a knowledge of the human anatomy. The killer, however, did not remove internal organs or disembowel victims, as the Ripper had done. Instead, the murderer cut the bodies into tidier 'portions'  — some of which were found wrapped up — and spread them around a given area. The victim discovered in Battersea, for instance, was reportedly pieced together by police surgeon Dr. Kempster in an attempt to make them identifiable.

R. Michael Gordon, in "The Thames Torso Murders of Victorian London," writes that the Torso and Ripper killers knew the workings of the human body, but pinpoints differences in "the way the victims were killed, and in the Torso series, how the bodies were sectioned for disposal."

The slain bodies of the Thames torso murders were discovered as body parts floating in the Thames, which is possibly why only one victim was ever identified: a pregnant 24-year-old Irish woman called Elizabeth Jackson, per Whitechapel Jack. This is a huge contrast to the Ripper's canon victims, whose names and tragic fates will never be forgotten. The Thames torso murders were perhaps even more brutal than the Ripper's killings, but the latter caused a huge media frenzy that cast the former into obscurity.