فصل 01

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فصل 01

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CHAPTER ONE

MURDER IN BUCK’S ROW

London in the year 1888. On August 30th the weather was cool, the sky was black with smoke from domestic fires, and rain fell; rain and more rain. The late summer and autumn had the heaviest rain of the year.

At 9 o’clock on that Thursday night a great fire in London Docks changed the colour of the sky in the East End of London to a deep red. From the dirty streets, dark passages and slum houses of Whitechapel hundreds of people went to watch the fire. Many of them were poor and homeless. They lived and slept in squalid lodging houses. The poorest lived in the streets and slept in doorways.

As always, the pubs were crowded and noisy. Alcohol was cheap and it helped people to feel better. Mary Ann Nichols was in ‘Frying Pan’ pub on the corner of Brick Lane, spending her last pennies on drink. She needed the money to pay for a bed in the ‘White House’, her lodging house in Flower and Dean Street. But Mary Ann needed alcohol too, and she was drinking too much. Later that night she tried to get a bed at Cooley’s lodging house in Thrawl Street, but she had to leave because she had no money. So she walked around the wet, cold streets hoping to earn something. One of the poorest areas in London, Whitechapel did not have many street lamps. The streets were dark, gloomy and dangerous.

Mary Ann Nichols was still walking the streets when her friend Ellen Holland saw her at 2.30 a.m. on August 31st. By that time Mary Ann - known as Polly - was very drunk. The women talked for a few minutes. Ellen asked Polly to come with her to the lodgings in Thrawl Street. But Polly went away along Whitechapel Road to try and get some money. After that only one person saw her alive again - her killer.

Buck’s Row was a quiet, narrow road with warehouses on one side and some small houses or cottages on the other. At the end of the cottages was the entrance to Brown’s stableyard, and then the long wall of a school. The street had only one gas lamp. At nearly 3.40 in the morning it was dark.

At this hour Charles Cross, a carman, was walking to work. He came into Buck’s Row from Brady Street. A few moments later he noticed something on the pavement in front of Brown’s stableyard, and crossed the road. He saw that it was a woman. At that moment he heard footsteps. It was another carman, Robert Paul, also on his way to work. Cross asked him to come and look. The men looked at the woman, but in the darkness they did not know if she was drunk or dead. They decided to continue on their way to work and tell the first policeman they met.

They saw a policeman, Constable Jonas Mizen, not far away in Baker’s Row, told him about the woman, and then walked on to work. When Constable Mizen arrived at the gates of the stableyard, another policeman, Constable John Neil, was already there. He had a lantern, and he showed Constable Mizen a deep cut in the woman’s neck.

‘I passed this place at 3.15,’ Constable Neil said, ‘but there was nothing here.’

‘The woman’s legs are still warm,’ said Constable Mizen. ‘I think Mr Cross interrupted her killer.’

Opposite the stableyard stood a warehouse. The manager, Walter Purkiss, and his wife were in their bedroom on the second floor. Mrs Purkiss was awake most of the night, and Mr Purkiss slept badly and was awake between one and two o’clock, but they heard nothing. Mrs Emma Green lived in the cottage next to the stableyard; she did not hear anything either. Polly Nichols’s killer worked quickly and silently, and disappeared like a ghost. He probably ran into Whitechapel Road through a narrow lane called Wood’s Buildings.

Polly Nichols died just a few days after her forty-third birthday. She was about 1.58m tall, and had dark brown hair. She was wearing a blue dress, black woolen stockings, men’s boots, and a black straw bonnet. She had a comb, a white handkerchief, and a broken piece of looking-glass. These were all the possessions she had. Polly was an ‘Unfortunate’: a polite Victorian word for a prostitute. She was probably an alcoholic. She lived in workhouses and, when she had the money to pay, in lodging houses. In December 1887 she was sleeping in Trafalgar Square. Her friend Ellen said she was a clean, quiet person. And her father said, ‘I don’t think she had any enemies. She was too good for that.’

When Dr Llewellyn examined the body, he thought the killer was right-handed. The man probably strangled Polly first, put her on the ground, and cut her throat. The police had no other clues to help them find the killer. There was also no obvious motive, such as robbery. This was a new, unknown type of murder, which they could not understand. Polly Nichols was not the first ‘Unfortunate’ who was murdered that year, so Scotland Yard chiefs sent their most experienced officer to investigate. This was Inspector Abbeline, a fine detective who knew the East End and its people very well. But he did not know that this killer was different - clever, efficient, and savage. Today he is probably the most famous killer in the world, Jack the Ripper. But nobody has ever discovered his true identity.

On August 31st the Star newspaper had a sensational headline:

A REVOLTING MURDER

ANOTHER WOMAN FOUND HORRIBLY MUTILATED IN WHITECHAPEL

GHASTLY CRIMES BY A MANIAC

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